by VR Sreeraman on  June 29, 2009 at 3:01 PM AIDS/HIV News
 Quarter of a Million Malawians on Free HIV Drugs: President
Malawi is supplying 250,000 HIV positive citizens with free anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and plans to start producing anti-AIDS drugs locally, President Bingu wa Mutharika said Sunday.

"Some 250,000 Malawians are receiving ARVs. We are doing well because many of these could have died by now," Mutharika said at an AIDS candlelight memorial on the outskirts of the commercial capital Blantyre.

Describing the drugs roll-out as a "success story", Mutharika said Malawi would establish a local company to "produce ARVs locally and export extra drugs to neighbouring countries".

"We will try to get the company going this year," he added.

The impoverished landlocked southern African country -- where around 14 percent of 13 million people are HIV positive according to official figures -- launched a free ARV programme five years ago with 5,000 initial beneficiaries.

UNAIDS resident coordinator Desmond Johns warned however that Malawi must do more to prevent new cases in the face of 90,000 new annual infections.

"Malawi has 300 new cases every day, largely among young people and females," he said. "Our priority has to be about 88 percent of Malawians who are free of HIV ... how best to assist and support them to remain negative.

"Fighting AIDS is arguably the single consistent threat in overall development for Malawi," he added.

Source: AFP

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