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MSF in Malawi, 2006
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HIV/AIDS has dramatically reduced average life expectancy in Malawi to below the age of 40. It has left 700,000 orphans and vulnerable children. Close to a million people in the country are now HIV-positive. The disease has contributed to a huge shortage of qualified health staff, which complicates efforts to address the disease, whilst approximately 170,000 people are in desperate need of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.
The government has been increasing the number of treatment sites to provide greater access to life-extending care. MSF is closely involved in this decentralisation in the southern district of Thyolo, where the number of treatment sites has risen from one to seven and close to 6000 patients were using ARVs by July 2006. MSF also conducts a program at the district hospital, started in 2002, to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease. By mid-2006, over 2000 women had made use of this program.
MSF provides a comprehensive HIV/AIDS program in the country's central Dowa district, with teams at district hospitals and several health centers. Aside from the local residents, care is provided for refugees coming from a number of African countries and now living in a camp in Dzaleka. By the end of April 2006, 424 patients, including 22 children, were receiving ARVs from MSF in Dowa. A support group has also been created for HIV-positive children aged six and over, with high attendance.
In the Chiradzulu district, MSF was providing ARVs to 6491 patients by the end of 2005, including 1300 patients who have been on ARVs for two years and more than 200 patients who have successfully used this therapy for more than three years. Another 250 new patients begin treatment monthly. MSF also treats medically complicated cases including patients on secondline treatment (for whom firstline drugs have failed), patients with Kaposi's Sarcoma — an AIDS related cancer — and children. MSF also cooperates with the regional hospital providing care in the adult medical and paediatric wards, where approximately 700 patients are admitted monthly.
Malawians in 2005 experienced food shortages resulting from the worst drought in over a decade, and MSF provided nutritional support to help HIV-positive patients and other vulnerable groups. In September 2005, MSF started feeding malnourished patients, and had distributed approximately 80 tonnes of food by the end of the year.
MSF has worked in Malawi since 1986.