On Friday, March 18th, a workshop with the title “Universal Access to treatment in Resource-Limited settings - New perspective to overcome the AIDS epidemic” was held in Lilongwe. As in previous years, the workshop represented a contribution to the debate on how best to continue the fight against AIDS in developing countries. Dr. Mary Shawa, Principal Secretary for HIV/AIDS and Nutrition in the Malawian Government, moderated the workshop.
It was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Health, including Dr. Damson Kathyola, responsible for Scientific Research, Dr Benson Chilima, Director of the Community Health and Social Unit and Mr. Rueben Mwenda, vice-director of Diagnostics, besides representatives of the National AIDS Commission, including Mrs. Florence Kayambo, as well as representatives of all major national and international agencies dealing with AIDS in Malawi including UNAIDS, CDC, MSF and the Clinton-Hunter Foundation.
During the seminar two reports were submitted: the first regarded the reworking based on the data collected by DREAM in the last years from 26.000 patients, an intervention model based on offering treatment to all HIV-positive and the offer of an annual test to all citizens, so as to diagnose the infection in its early stages and treat them in advance. Such an approach would also have a considerable preventing impact, reducing significantly in very few years the number of new cases of infection.
In fact, during the same day, the second report presented data relating to halving the number of people infected with HIV in an area, that of Francisco Palau Hospital in Mthengo wa Ntenga, where the DREAM program has been running for over five years in cooperation with the Carmelite Missionary Sisters, who run the hospital.
Finally, the updated data of the DREAM program related to vertical prevention in Malawi was presented. This approach will be, from July 1st, the official guideline for all health centers and hospitals in the country.
During the debate, many have commented the good news emerging from the reports submitted, and the discussion focused on how to extend countrywide an approach which is already proving its effectiveness.