Malawi, US building on success in Aids fight; Lisa Vickers, Charge d'Affaires, U.S. Embassy Lilongwe, Malawi; Op-Ed in The Nation; Malawi

December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day is both a day of remembrance and a day of celebration. We must all remember those who have lost their lives to Aids. It is in their honour that we work each and every day to provide HIV prevention, treatment and care to millions across the globe.

Yet, it is also a day to celebrate those whose lives have been improved and saved in Malawi and throughout the world, thanks to global efforts to fight this devastating disease.

On this World AIDS Day, it is important to remember that we have a shared responsibility to build on the success achieved to date by making smart investments that will ultimately save more lives.

And there is much success to build on. In Malawi, the United States of America, through the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), has supported life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for 26 910 men, women and children as of September 2010.

Pepfar has directly supported 157 413 people in Malawi with care and support programs, including 76 694 orphans and vulnerable children. Pepfar's efforts around prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs have allowed nearly 20 866 HIV-positive pregnant mothers to receive ARVs to prevent mother-to-child transmission in the past year.

US support continues to grow, despite difficult economic times. Building on the success of Pepfar and other global health programmes, President Barack Obama has also put forward an ambitious Global Health Initiative, which will support coordinated programmes aimed at reducing lives lost from HIV and Aids and other health challenges.

And through US investments in the Global Fund to Fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, many more people will benefit from prevention, care and treatment.

Working with Malawi, we are also becoming smarter about how we're making investments with the goal of saving more lives. Experience in Malawi and elsewhere has taught us how to use every dollar invested in battling HIV and Aids more effectively and efficiently.

This means every dollar is going a little further, allowing us to do more to combat HIV and Aids, and address issues across the global health spectrum. It also means that we can now measure our success not just in money invested, but in the ultimate measure of success - lives improved and saved.

We are using our money wisely for greater impact. For example, we recognized that prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) must be incorporated into maternal and child health programmes. Extensive community mobilization, complemented by expanding PMTCT sites at antenatal clinics, has increased demand for PMTCT services. These new clinics and maternity registers have greatly improved the quality and efficiency of the services women received.

As a result, greater numbers of Malawian expectant mothers learned their HIV status and received ARV treatment, thus reducing the risk of transmitting the virus.

On this World Aids Day, we honour the lives lost and celebrate the lives saved, but we cannot rest.

Working together, we must remain dedicated to building on success by making smart investment to save even more lives.

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