By Watipaso Mzungu- Contributor
The number of adolescents and young people living with HIV and Aids accessing Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in public hospitals has dropped due to fear of contracting coronavirus disease (Covid-19), a latest report has said.
The National Association for Young People Living with HIV (NAYPLHIV) undertook the study to appreciate how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the social and economic livelihoods of adolescents and young people living with HIV in Malawi.
The study was conducted in 10 districts, namely; Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Lilongwe, Karonga, Nkhatabay, Mzimba, Mzuzu, Salima, Machinga and Zomba.
The study established that the Covid-19 crisis has created fear among many Malawians, including adolescents and young people living with HIV, to the extent that majority of them stopped visiting health facilities to access their life-prolonging drugs.
Adolescents and young people living with HIV are among groups of people with underlying conditions and the fear of contracting Covid-19 has reportedly affecting the health-seeking behavior among them.
“The fear of visiting health facilities has ultimately disrupted young with HIV and Aids from accessing and adhering to ARVs. It also disrupted activities of support groups and teen clubs,” the reports reads in part.
The report also highlights key activities implemented under the Social Aid Fund grant, which NAYPLHIV (also known as Y+ Malawi) received from the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global) targeting Adolescents and Young People Living with HIV in their diversities.
Apparently, with support from Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global), Y+ Malawi has been providing social and financial support to Adolescents and Young People Living with HIV in the targeted districts.
Speaking in an interview on Thursday, NAYPLHIV National Coordinator Violet Lindiwe Banda said they undertook the study to appreciate the challenges their members are facing due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Banda disclosed that the study also wanted to inform the government and its stakeholders on what needs to be done in responding to Covid-19 crisis and mitigate its impact in the realm of HIV programming as well as sustain the gains in the sector.
“We hope the government and its stakeholders will take heed of the findings of the study. This is critical in ensuring that Malawi is combating Covid-19 from all the fronts,” she said.
Among others, the study recommends that the government should establish Social Aid Fund targeting AYPLHIV and vulnerable groups.
It also appeals to Y+ Global and UNAIDS to increase the number of beneficiaries and scale up the AYPLHIV Social AID Fund in all the 28 districts of Malawi, stressing that sustenance of such programmes will greatly improve treatment adherence, better nutrition, and life outcomes for young people in their diversity.
“It is also important to invest in relevant skill acquisition trainings to boost young people’s resilience and income generation. The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 should include and support HIV Networks, HIV Youth activists at national and sub-national level,” it recommends.