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Malawi stops extra pay for public workers with HIV

09 june 2011, 19:36
Malawi has phased out a scheme to give extra payments to nearly 40,000 civil servants with HIV, accusing some workers of spending the money on beer and prostitutes, AFP reports, citing authorities Thursday.

Instead, the government will hand out a monthly "nutrition food bag" equivalent to $35 (26 euros), said Mary Shaba, secretary for nutrition, HIV and AIDS.

The scheme was launched in 2007, but was grossly abused with hundreds of workers claiming to have HIV in order to cash in on the payment, she said in a statement.

"The patients will now receive a nutrition food bag instead, as the money was not spent on its intended purpose to buy extra food and improve nutrition," she said.

"Some people used the money to buy beers and go out with prostitutes, further spreading the virus," said Shaba, who engineered the scheme.

Shaba said the monthly payments were a civil service workplace programme aimed at improving nutrition to allow people with HIV to respond to treatment quickly.

Malawi has nearly 170,000 civil servants, whose average wage is $100.

Half of Malawi's 13 million citizens live on less than a dollar a day and are unable to meet their nutritional needs.

Around 14 percent of the country's population is HIV positive. The pandemic, which kills over 85,000 people a year due to AIDS-related illness, has cut life expectancy in the southern African nation to 36.

The government says it now provides free AIDS drugs to 366,000 people, from 5,000 in 2004.

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