Malawi, ravaged by the AIDS pandemic, has urged its six million "sexually active" citizens to go for voluntary HIV tests when a week-long national campaign starts Monday.
Health authorities said in a statement issued Friday that statistics had shown that out of "six million sexually active Malawians, only 15 percent have gone for HIV testing and know their status."
"This implies that the majority of Malawians do not know that they are carrying the virus because they have not gone for a test, a situation that poses a great threat to prevention efforts," the statement said.
Around 14 percent of Malawi's 12 million people are infected with HIV, according to official figures.
Mtemwa Nyangulu, HIV testing and counselling officer at the Ministry of Health headquarters in the administrative capital Lilongwe, told AFP: "We have targetted to test more people this year by going to rural areas and using mobile clinics at 350 sites."
About 97,000 people were tested in 2006, and 10.8 percent of them were HIV positive, the authorities said.
"We want to encourage Malawians to go for the tests. We also want to take advantage to reach them with correct information on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support," Nyangulu said.
She said about 650,000 Malawians go for voluntary HIV tests every year.
President Bingu wa Mutharika has said he wanted at least one million Malawians going for the tests to determine how many people should get access to free antiretroviral treatment.
"It's ambitious but achievable...we need to test at least a million people every year," Mutharika said in 2005, adding that the biggest challenge in Malawi was to "control and manage the AIDS pandemic."
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