Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cutting USAID and Country of the week: Malawi

According to a recent news article in the Nyasa Times, Malawi is having a difficult time addressing a huge pediatric HIV epidemic. The article reported there are 91,000 children under 15 living with the disease in Malawi, but there are virtually no anti-retroviral (ARV) medications designed for children in the country.

These 91,000 HIV-positive children in Malawi are among 2.1 million children worldwide who are living with the disease.

There is currently legislation making its way through the Senate that would cut U.S. aid to organizations that work to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

If the Senate approves that legislation, an additional estimated 20,000 newborns would also contract the disease, according to the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

You can make a difference by signing a petition against this legislation here.

Children who are currently affected by HIV in Malawi have to break an adult ARV pill in half, which is the correct dosage but difficult for children to swallow. Only less than two-thirds of the 91,000 children affected are getting any medicine at all, and those that do find it tough to stick to strict treatment regimens.

The pediatric ARV medicine is very expensive, and some non-profits working in the area said the government has not tried to cooperate with them to secure the necessary medication. They argue the government could help establish a factory to produce the ARV medicine.

The national budget, however, has reduced the portion of the budget devoted to health from 15 to 13 percent since 2006, the article said.

Situations such as these show the importance of increasing foreign aid to nations with the epidemic. NGOs on the ground are in need of more support than ever, and the bill approved in the House of Representatives threatens the worldwide goal of producing a generation free of HIV.

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