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November 30, 2023

Deputy Assistant Secretary Melanie Higgins’ Remarks to Media in Malawi

Good morning! Moni nonse!

It is my pleasure to be here in Malawi, my first visit to the Warm Heart of Africa, and to speak to you today as we commemorate 20 years of partnership in the fight against HIV and AIDS through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR. PEPFAR joined you in Malawi in 2006 and immediately began work with you to advance treatment options, raise community awareness, increase prevention efforts, and strengthen health systems nation-wide.

The first HIV case in Malawi was reported at Kamuzu Central Hospital in 1985. Before antiretroviral therapy became readily available in 2005, the probability of dying from HIV/AIDS for HIV-positive Malawians between the ages of 15 and 60 was 43%.  At that time, roughly 65% of deaths in Malawi were attributed to HIV/AIDS.  Now, 18 years later, Malawi is a healthier nation due to the partnerships that offer Malawians access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs through PEPFAR.

Malawi has also reduced HIV prevalence by half, to less than eight per cent, and now sees a third of the number of new infections and half the number of deaths it saw ten years ago.

Today, we are proud to work alongside the Government of Malawi, UNAIDS, Global Fund, civil society organizations, and other key partners in this life-saving work. Malawi is at a critical juncture in the fight to end the HIV epidemic.  While your country has significantly expanded access to HIV services and has reached critical global treatment goals, there is still much work to do to sustain this progress and reach those unaware of their HIV status.

Honorable Minister Chiponda, I commend you and the leadership of your Ministry for your commitments to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 and achieve Malawi’s Universal Health Coverage targets.

The U.S. government has invested over $1 billion dollars in HIV/AIDS programming in Malawi since 2013 through PEPFAR. World AIDS Day on December 1st offers a time to reaffirm our commitment to the people of Malawi and to celebrate the tremendous progress that has been made in this fight.

I would like to highlight the many achievements made possible through PEPFAR’s $1 billion dollar investment in Malawi, all of which have contributed to HIV prevention, diagnosis, and treatment; and the strengthening of both systems and local resilience.

 

Thanks to PEPFAR:

    • More than 570,000 HIV-exposed children are HIV-free due to programming to prevent mother to child transmission.
    • Over 1 million boys and men were voluntarily circumcised to reduce HIV transmission.
    • More than 350,000 adolescent girls and young women have been reached through the DREAMS Program and equipped with both information and interventions that provide health care, psychosocial support, and other essential services.
    • Over 23,000 adolescents aged 10 to 19 have been equipped with knowledge and skills to reduce their risk of contracting HIV.

We note achievements related to treatment:

    • More than 900,000 people living with HIV are currently on antiretroviral therapy; PEPFAR supports 98% of them.

We celebrate system-strengthening achievements, including:

      • Support for advanced electronic medical records systems, resulting in a model of how to integrate the HIV platform of electronic medical records across other diseases.
      • Over 750 sites providing antiretroviral treatment have some form of electronic medical record system.
      • Over 2,000 frontline health workers graduated from training institutions to improve service delivery at the local level through PEPFAR support.
      • PEPFAR currently supports more than 13,000 healthcare workers to provide high-quality HIV services.

Malawi’s progress is a result of partnerships that close health equity gaps among children, adolescent girls and young women, and other key populations. In a few minutes, you will hear from an individual who benefited from a PEPFAR program.

There are many stories throughout Malawi of U.S. government efforts, through PEPFAR, to make a difference in the lives of Malawians. For example, PEPFAR programs have helped many young men overcome their fears of medication side effects and restart antiretroviral treatment.  We are working with the Chewa community to address common misconceptions about voluntary medical male circumcision.  And we are assisting young women like Precious, a member of the Miracle DREAMS club at the Nsanama Health Facility, to access prevention services.  Through collaboration with key partners, PEPFAR works with you to save lives and promote better health for all Malawians.

Thank you.