HIV in Malawi

HIV in Malawi, Africa

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that effectively hijacks the immune system one cell at a time. These compromised cells are rendered useless and eventually lysed by the replicating virus within them. This strategy significantly decreases the efficiency of the immune system and leaves the patient immunocompromised and highly susceptible to other illnesses and parasites. The most common virus that accompanies HIV in Malawi is tuberculosis which is what ends up killing the vast majority of HIV patients. With a total pollution of 15.9 million and an infection of 10.8% of the population, this brings the population of infected HIV patients to 1.1 million (estimates as of 2012). Of the infected, 60% are female with the main route of transmission reported is heterosexual intercourse.

As far as what is being done for HIV patients, there are a plethora of initiatives. The United Nations established an initiative put in place back in 2009 to help raise awareness, educate the masses and prevent the spread of the disease. UNICEF is another organization geared toward children and adolescents in terms of treatment for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. AVERT is another internationally recognized charity that works towards HIV education, management and ultimately the eradication of this disease.

The works of Alister Munthali are what I found most interesting. This particular article focuses on the coping mechanisms the members of those infected. Usually you hear about how the patient’s life has been impacted by this disease but the position she chose to emphasize was that of the impact it has on those associated with the deceased HIV patient, which is something I had never thought about before. She goes into detail on a myriad of situations. One that was most intriguing to me was that in some societies of Malawi the land is inherited and owned by men and in others it could be inherited by women, but what if the predominant land owner gets infected and dies? The author states that the deceased’s spouse does not inherit this land but rather it defers back to their parents, in which case they will either hand off the land and the deceased’s family to their living children. The family is then rendered homeless and can live under the new household peacefully or be forced to marry into the new land owner’s family in exchange for not living on the streets. However if the spouse of the deceased is suspected of being infected then this might be out of the question and destitution becomes the new reality for them. If HIV systematically makes its way through an entire family then the children can either fend for themselves on the streets, in factories, or be sent off to live with their grandparents. It’s very eye opening to me to comprehend that although there are many options for individuals in these situation, the reality is that these options aren’t always as desirable or accessible for everyone. It is a shame that this is the reality in Malawi, but there are forces currently in play that are working toward ending this horrible virus and that is something to hang your hat on.


Munthali Alister. “Adaptive Strategies and Coping Mechanisms of families and Communities Affected by HIV/AIDS in Malawi.” United Nations Research Institute for Social Development: March 2002. Accessed 8-7-2014


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“Unicef – About us”

“Unicef Statistics”

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