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HIV testing programs gather momentum in Africa

Malawi recently launched a nation-wide campaign to encourage the country's citizens to undergo voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for HIV infection (see November 2005 Primer on Understanding HIV Testing). The aim of this week-long testing drive, announced by the Health Minister, is to increase access to the available HIV prevention, treatment, and care services, and was initiated after surveys found that only 15% of the 12 million people in the country have already received VCT.

The campaign is expected to reach over 50,000 people. To date 47,000 HIV-infected individuals in Malawi have received antiretrovirals (ARVs) through the Global Fund, but estimates are that another 178,000 are still in need of treatment.

Malawi's new campaign follows Lesotho's announcement last year of a comprehensive VCT program, which is going door-to-door throughout the country offering testing to all citizens (see June 2006 Primer on Understanding Home-Based Voluntary Counseling and Testing Services). Former US President Bill Clinton also recently called for all African governments to actively encourage HIV testing in order to identify those in need of ARVs.