World Aid Day is a day that was set aside to commemorate the fight against HIV/AIDS and to honor those gone due to the disease. This year’s theme focused on commemorating communities and the difference they make in the fight again HIV/AIDS. Since the fight against HIV started, various communities have held hands to bring an end to issues such as stigma, access to Health Care as well as educating their fellow community members on the disease and without communities, approximately 24million people would not be on treatment today. Communities such as the CSO community have played a huge role in the fight against HIV with WLSA in particular adding to the available research through our publications such as Feminisation of HIV/AIDS in Malawi: women’s rights to life and factors that create vulnerability to HIV transmission (which formed the basis of a course taught by the NC at the university of Toronto Ontario institute for studies in education, Centre for women’s education in the fall – 2017) and Women and Aids in six districts in Malawi: balancing the equation between grounded realities and appropriateness of the response. World Aids day falls in the 16day of Activism where generation equality is standing against rape, as such there is need to remind ourselves that bringing an end to rape and rape culture is one was we can eliminate HIV/AIDS. Due to the great strides we’ve made in fighting the HIV epidemic, Malawi registered the highest country decline across Sub-Saharan Africa. This has been due to the great work the Malawian community has done by holding hands and working together in the eradication of the disease. By learning from the best used practices in the fight against HIV, we can adopt said methods in the fight to end to rape and other forms of GBV.
Malawi has one of the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world despite the great strides taken to control the disease. Young people are the highest people at risk with 50% of new HIV infections coming from youth ranging from ages 15-17. This is due to early sexual activity, stigma when accessing sexual reproductive health cases and poverty although this does not exhaust the list. Between the two genders, HIV disproportionately affects women especially among the ages of 25-29 where HIV prevalence is 3times higher among women than men. One of the causes of this is because sexual violence has continued to be an issue with 22% of women and 15% of men having experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Almost a 3rd of all new cases reported in 2016 happened among young people with 70% happening among women.
In the fight against HIV/AIDS, different methods have been applied such as the dissemination of knowledge and availability of SRH services. In 2016, 78% women and 82% men demonstrate sufficient knowledge of HIV prevention with the urban youth being more knowledgeable than those in rural areas. However, Despite the increase in knowledge, use of condoms remains low between 15-19-year-old sexually active persons. Further, 25% of married females and 30% of sexually active unmarried females don’t use any form of protection. Despite the availability of SRH services, people (mainly the youth, sex workers and homosexual men) still face obstacles when trying to access these services which increases their risk or acquiring HIV and other STI’s. One of the biggest fears people have expressed is not wanting others to know of their status due to fears of discrimination. According to the constitution of Malawi, dignity and privacy of every person should be protected therefore it is up to all of us to ensure that those acting contrary are brought to book.
When it comes to the youth, one of their biggest fears is not being able to handle to knowledge if they are found to indeed be infected. By the end of 2018, an estimated 79% of people in the world living with HIV knew their status, 62% were receiving Antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 53% had achieved suppression of the HIV Virus with no risk of infecting others. By 2018, new HIV infections were reduced by 37% and HIV related deaths fell by 45% showing that not only is it possible to live a long and health life whilst living with HIV, but it is also possible to suppress it to the point of it not being detected enough to transmit to others. WLS Malawi continues to work with government, other CSO’s and the Malawian community at large in the fight against HIV/AIDS.