Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 11:27 UK

Drugs 'slash' Malawi Aids deaths

Malawian woman with HIV
Last year, Malawians were urged to take an HIV test

Distributing anti-retroviral drugs in Malawi has led to a huge fall in Aids-related deaths, an official says.

Mary Shawa told the Reuters news agency that 67% of those taking the ARV drugs are still alive.

Malawi is among the countries worst affected by Aids, with about 7% of the 13m population affected.

The World Health Organization estimates that 35% of those infected with HIV in Malawi are now taking ARV drugs, which were rolled out in 2004.

Aids is the leading cause of death for adult Malawians, according to Reuters.

As of March this year, the government had put 159,111 people on ARVs and 106,547 of those are still alive, the agency says.

"This represents a 67% survival rate," according to Ms Shawa.

"But we still need to do more, because those who did not make it may have died because they started the treatment late or did not have access to proper nutrition."

In January, the government announced that all civil servants with HIV would be given a pay rise to help them buy the food needed to remain strong and fight off disease.

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