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The Mobile Web and Compulsory HIV Test for Malawi

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi, Health, Technology

Malawi's Internet users have this year been experiencing new trends as now they can access and browse from their mobile phones and homes. This is an initiative by the fixed line service provider (Malawi Telecommunications Limited) and two mobile phone service operators, Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) and Celtel Malawi. The introduction of mobile data services [1] in the form of mobile Internet and multimedia messaging, popularly known as MMS is bringing excitement to Malawians.

Mzuzu-based blogger known as mile [2] has welcomed this initiative with a post titled ICT Development in Malawi.

I wrote once on my first personal website that I wanna be able to browse the internet from my home village in Mzimba. Thanks to Celtel I am able to do that now on my phone though I am still limited to checking a few pages and emails only. Still I wanna browse everything and be able to download software on my laptop when I am there so that my software development isn't limited to location. High Cost of ICT Services. I wonder why something that somewhere else is very cheap could cost so much her.

Compulsory HIV test???

Sub Saharan Africa is home to about 25 million persons [3] living with HIV. While in many countries voluntary counselling was promoted to help check infection, new Malawian blogger Benett Kankuzi [4] feels it is time testing for HIV became compulsory. Based in Botswana which has HIV prevalence rates, he says there are many reasons why compulsory HIV test should be pursued:

  • Each citizen will know their status and therefore plan their individual lives properly. This will help individuals not to live in an “ostrich” state by pretending that they do not have the virus yet they don’t exactly know their sero-status.
  • Voluntary testing has failed to entice many people to go for the test. Just ask yourself on the number of people who have gone for HIV testing voluntarily. Personally, have you already done so?

At the same time, a health journalist Kondwani Muthali [5] updates his blog with the latest HIV and AIDS acronoyms. You might think I made a mistake above when I wrote persons living with HIV. The word ‘A’ is dropped and Kondwani gives more instructions:

UNAIDS has revised the acronyms [4] once again, so now people living with HIV are called PLHIV, and young people living with HIV are implicitly called YPLHIV. Old acronyms were PLWHA, PLWA, PLWH, PWH and YPLWH, YLWH, YLWH….With reference to those living with HIV, it is preferable to avoid certain terms: AIDS patient should only be used in amedical context (most of the time, a person with AIDS is not in the role of patient); the term AIDS victim or AIDS sufferer implies that the individual in question is powerless, with no control over his or her life. It is preferable to use ‘people living with HIV’ (PLHIV), since this reflects the fact that an infected person may continue to live well and productively for many years.

Another health-related issue in this round-up has to do with the impact lack of running water has on education for pupils in Malawi. It is reported that many girls drop out as soon they reach adolescence as they cannot bear the inconvenience and embarrassment of having to do without water. Pilirani Semu Banda [6] quotes Government statistics in Malawi that 10.5 percent of girls drop out of school each year as compared to 8.4 percent of boys. In addition to this, around 22 percent of primary school age girls do not attend school at all, while 60 percent of those enrolled do not attend regularly.

Blogging under the title Lack of Running Water Puts Girls’ Education at Risk, the lady journalist writes about the challenges that girls [6] especially face when there isn't any running water at school.

The hard-working, resolute 13-year-old attends a primary school that has no running water. All 350 pupils at Rita’s school have only two pit-latrines to share, and there is no tap where they can wash their hands after using the toilet.

Rita says she and other adolescent girls find these poor sanitation conditions even more awkward when it is time for their monthly periods: “It’s so difficult to concentrate in class when you know there is no water to clean up with at break time. I usually prefer staying home every time my menses come.”