Malaria is a disease of poverty. Its effects are intensified by all of the living conditions that surround a life lived in poverty: hunger, malnutrition, HIV and AIDS and other diseases. These factors are inextricably linked with malaria.
Ms. Stella Kaziputa is the head nurse at the Kapiri Health Center in Malawi. She has seen great results from the Lutheran Malaria Program there. Stella reminds us that when it comes to malaria, “the most endangered or vulnerable groups of people are the pregnant women, the under-five children, and the HIV-infected people in Malawi.”
And so when there is good news on the HIV and AIDS horizon, this is also good news for those of us who are concerned with the impact of malaria in the world.
And last week, the United Nations released some very good news indeed. (Read the article here.) The report reveals that since 2001, new HIV infections in children have decreased by 50%. And new HIV infections in the general population have gone down by one third. That means more healthy people! And in the context of our malaria work, that means more people whose bodies are able to ward off malaria infection. It means healthier communities. It means less poverty.
Pastor Alek Msuku is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi. He serves as the Coordinator of the HIV and AIDS program for his church, and also as the Assistant Coordinator of the Malaria Program. He reminds us that “malaria is curable. But HIV and AIDS is not curable. But HIV and AIDS has got a drug which is called ARVs—anti-retroviral therapy. A person takes the ARVs throughout his or her life, but the person lives with the virus. So, on the ground, those of us who are development practitioners, we have realized that inasmuch as we would like to solve the malaria problem, in the back of our minds, we know that we are also affected by the HIV and AIDS.”
He continues, “So it’s like the HIV and AIDS have ‘partnered’ with malaria, or they have formed an ‘alliance’ with malaria.”
We have an alliance, too– the ELCA is working with Lutheran churches and Lutheran organizations in 12 countries in Africa to promote malaria awareness, encourage healthy behaviors, and provide the resources that are needed to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria. The alliance between HIV and malaria is strong– but I think our alliance with our companions is stronger! As the Lutheran malaria programs continue, I believe that we will continue to see good news and good progress in many areas of global health.