LILONGWE (Reuters) – Malawi plans to start paying civil servants suffering from HIV/AIDS about $35 a month extra to help them buy more food, Health Minister Marjorie Ngaunje said on Monday.
Malawi, with a population of about 13 million, ranks among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, home to two-thirds of those infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
Ngaunje told Reuters the government had sent out a circular urging all civil servants affected by the disease to come forward.
“We thought an extra 5,000 Malawi kwacha on top of their monthly salaries would go a long way in improving their nutritional requirements which are essential to their well-being,” Ngaunje said.
Civil servants in Malawi earn an average $200 per month.
Official estimates show that AIDS kills about 10 people an hour in the impoverished southern African nation, which is increasingly unable to cope with the crisis.
Health officials estimate that a million Malawians are infected with HIV and about 640,000 have died of AIDS-related causes since 1985.
Malawi spends about $13 per capita on health annually, far below the $36 recommended by the World Health Organization.
Mary Shawa, Principal Secretary for Nutrition and HIV/Aids in the president’s office, said the monthly payment would help prolong the lives of many affected civil servants.
“We know that thousands are infected in the civil service and with the new system we expect to have exact numbers when people enroll as beneficiaries,” she said.