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Breakfast Friday, 28 February, 2003, 11:27 GMT
Breakfast in Malawi: Aids
Claire at a children's hospital
Nearly two million people in Malawi are infected with HIV or Aids. Without access to Western standards of healthcare, the outlook for many of them is very bleak indeed.

Read on for Claire Sweeney's first report from Malawi - on the Aids crisis there:

My best friend died of Aids two years ago. One of the reasons I wanted to come to Malawi was to see for myself the extent of the food shortages and aids crisis.

Six months ago, Macdonald Makiyoni moved from his village to the capital, Lilongwe, to start a business.

He had been a baker by trade but decided he wasn't making enough money to provide for his wife and 2 children.

Now he's a coffin maker. And he's not the only one. "The Coffin Industry is booming nowadays," he tells me "because people are dying in large numbers from poverty and HIV/ Aids."

Even the most basic of products costs the equivalent of two months wages in Malawi so it's not surprising business is thriving on Kenyatta Drive. A decade ago the life expectancy was 61. Now it's just 37.

War against Aids

it's absolutely heartbreaking seeing all these coffins, especially the babies' ones. But thanks to Save the Children and other Charities, things are getting better.

I went to see one project in NkhotaKhota. The women there are in the front line of a war - and the war is against Aids.

With songs, plays and money from Action Aid they're trying to spread the message about using condoms.

Whats amazing about these women is that they're prostitutes. Three of them have been tested HIV positive. The others don't want to know.

When there's still so much stigma attached to the disease - it was really inspiring that these women are prepared to perform publicly.

Sixty percent of people living with HIV in Malawi are women. They're often faced with a stark choice. When their families are starving, they will barter their bodies for food.

The hope is their children will have more choices.

We went to meet one woman who's living with Aids. Her name is Modesta.

She used to go to a support group but is now too weak to leave her home. Desperately needed food to fight off infection is too expensive and she has contracted pneumonia.

Modesta told me her husband had infected her but wasn't sure if her son, Tokozani had the virus. I asked her if she was worried about what would happen to him.

Through a translator, she told me that she's hopeful she'll get better. But, if she doesn't, her parents are still healthy, so they can look after her son.

Nearly two million people are thought to be infected with HIV Aids in Malawi. Only 2,000 of them receive the drugs which prolong their lives.

Modesta has very little chance of getting any treatment. The hospital she went to had even run out of painkillers. Like millions of others in Southern Africa, without the 18 a month she needs to buy the drugs, her only choice now is to wait to die.

Claire Sweeney Malawi

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29 Jan 03 | Country profiles
21 Feb 03 | Africa
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