Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Malawi: Gov’t set guidelines for HIV/AIDS fund

In a quest to combat corrupt practices in the administration of HIV/AIDS Workplace Programme in Malawi, the government of that country has come up with new guidelines intended to standardize the care package across the public sector to facilitate effective use of the resources.
Government introduced HIV/AIDS Workplace Programme as a fund to benefit HIV/AIDS infected civil servants who had come in the open as an encouragement to mobilize more people to declare their status. Such workers were getting K5,000 (about $34) on top of their monthly salaries.

But the programme was temporarily suspended after it was discovered that some unscrupulous people in the civil service were conniving with hospital personnel to issue them (civil servants) with bogus medical reports indicating that one is an HIV patient and that their CD4 count had reached a point where they are supposed to start taking the life-prolonging drugs - ARVs.

After being issued with the bogus medical reports the civil servants would go to their employers asking to be included on the list of HIV infected servants benefiting from the fund meant for civil servants on anti-retroviral drugs so that they too, should be receiving a monthly K5000 (about $34) from government coffers.

“Through this practice, a lot of government money was lost,” said Dr. Mary Shawa, Principal Secretary (PS) for Nutrition, HIV/AIDS, in August 2008.

Speaking in an exclusive interview, Director of Nutrition, HIV and Aids in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) Catherine Mkangama said the new guidelines provide a minimum package for nutrition care and support that should be given to the people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS using the two percent ORT [other recurrent transactions] resources.

Mkangama explained that the package has been developed through a process of wide consultations and lessons learnt from other Nutrition Care and Support programmes in the country.

“The guidelines are intended to standardize the care package across the public sector to facilitate effective use of the resources. In addition, the guidelines suggest activities that can be implemented to promote HIV prevention, control, mitigation, care, support and treatment in the work place programme,” Mkangama stated.

The new arrangement states that Public Servants Living with HIV/AIDS (PSLWHAs) will also be getting nutrition support complement the food security of their households.

While as support was restricted to the infected persons in the old programme, the new programme extends the support to their registered dependants (only those residing with the public servant) if infected by the pandemic.

“The new arrangement is very effective and will help in saving government money. Beneficiaries will need to go a number of processes to qualify for the support. This is done to avoid fraud and corruption in the administration of the programme,” said Mkangama.

Among others, public servants will have to produce their health passbook, ART number, health centre where they are collecting their drugs from, village where they come from and the type of assistance they would need.

Department of Nutrition, HIV and Aids is currently printing a document containing these guidelines on the use of the 2% of other recurrent transactions (ORT) budget commitment towards HIV and Aids at work place to all government departments and ministries.

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