Fact Sheet: HIV/Aids
HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a disease that attacks the immune system, and has contributed to over 30 million deaths globally. As of 2012, there are over 35 million people worldwide with HIV, with Sub-Saharan Africa being the region most severely affected. It is most commonly transmitted through sexual intercourse, contaminated blood transfusions, needles, from mother to child during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There is no known cure or vaccine, but antiretroviral treatment can be effective in slowing the disease.
HIV/AIDS not only affects the individual, but it also has a significant affect on the wider community. The economic affects of the pandemic range from a reduced labour supply due to increased mortality, a reduced labour productivity due to long periods of illness, and reduced government income as taxes fall and expenditure increases. It has been found that the pandemic has reduced the economic growth rate by 2-4% a year across Africa.
The impact of HIV/AIDS can also be seen in households, on children and within the education system. When parents pass away, children are often sent to relatives for care and upbringing. This frequently results in the family being unable to send the child to school, and the child is then forced to work, instead of gaining an education. Households are forced to reduce spending on necessities to afford basic medical care. In Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS can occupy more than half of hospital beds, reducing the country’s ability to treat and care for the rest of the population.
HIV/AIDS in Malawi
The virus has had a devastating affect on Malawi. There are almost 1 million people currently living with HIV, which equates to just under 10% of the entire population. There are also over 700,000 orphans under the age of 17 due to the AIDS pandemic. The rate of HIV is higher in urban areas, compared with rural areas.
Malawi receives significant funding from international bodies for aid and development, including monies and expertise to address the pandemic. The National HIV and AIDS Action Framework (NAF) guided the development and implementation of interventions for the period 2005-2009. Following a review, it was extended to 2012.
There are several steps that Malawi has taken to minimise the spread of HIV. These include:
• The expansion of voluntary HIV testing and counselling
• Prevention of mother-to-child transmission services
• Condom promotion and distribution
• Voluntary medical male circumcision
• Blood safety measures
• Mass media campaigns
• Life Skills Education (LSE) for young people
These steps have resulted in a reduction in the spread of HIV and the occurrence of AIDS. However, several key issues are still driving the pandemic. These include a lack of funding and resources, stigma and discrimination, and gender inequality.
Mphatso Children’s Foundation and HIV/AIDS
As Mphatso operates in the rural areas, HIV rates are lower than in the city, but the impacts are no less severe. Access to medical treatment is almost impossible due to the location of services and the shortage of recourses. As well as this, the costs of treatment remain out of reach out of many of the population, despite significant government subsidies. There are a number of children who attend the nursery school program that have lost at least one parent. The nutritious meal that the child receives can take considerable pressure of the limited resources of the family. Mphatso also runs several positive living groups for those affected by HIV. At any one time, up to 30 women attend this support group. Stigma remains high, especially in rural areas, but the positive living group gives the women a safe place to come, to have community with one another, to engage in activities and to receive support where needed. The group is entirely run by the participants, giving them ownership of the group, while Mphatso gives them a place to operate and support for materials, among other things.