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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jul 27, 2000
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      Prostitutes arrested in
      Malawi HIV crackdown


      By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

      Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi has directed
      the country's police to arrest any prostitute
      found loitering on street corners in an effort to
      slow down the spread of HIV and Aids.

      In a broadcast on state radio and televsion
      President Muluzi said that since the health
      system cannot cope with the AIDS crisis,
      Malawians must fight the scourge by
      discouraging the kind of behaviour that helps
      the spread of the disease.

      For the first time,
      President Muluzi also
      ordered the police to
      arrest not only the
      prostitutes but their
      clients as well.

      Latest statistics from
      the National Aids
      Control Programmes show that at least 14% of
      Malawi's population is infected by the HIV virus
      and more than 350,000 people have died.

      Critics claim the
      presidential decree will
      only lead to prostitutes
      going underground,
      while others wonder
      how the police would
      be able to distinguish
      between a prostitute
      and simply a fun-loving
      woman out to have a
      good time with friends.

      But police spokesman
      Oliver Soko said the
      police will not only concentrate on sweeping
      the streets or entertainment joints.

      Widespread action

      He said the police will conduct surprise swoops
      even on the homes of suspected prostitutes to
      flush them out.

      All those arrested will be charged under the
      offence of living on earnings of immorality.

      Mr Soko added that since Malawian laws do
      not recognise male prostitutes or
      homosexuality, male prostitutes would be
      charged under laws governing "disorderly or
      rogue conduct".

      Prostitutes angered

      Prostitutes themselves have received the news
      with indignation.

      Melissa and Regina, both 24-year-old full-time
      prostitutes who share a room in a township in
      Blantyre, said the presidential decree was
      unfair since most prostitutes do not take up
      the profession for fun.

      "I will still find a way of soliciting clients even if
      it means servicing the police officers for free,"
      said Melissa.

      Emmie Chanika, a civil
      rights activist, told the
      BBC she welcomes the
      presidential decree
      since it calls for the
      arrest of both the
      prostitutes and their
      clients.

      She said the previous
      fashion of letting the
      clients go scot free
      was unfair because "it
      is the men who create
      demand".

      Asked what will happen to those prostitutes
      who depend on the profession for their living,
      Ms Chanika said the decree will force them to
      be creative and find alternative means of
      survival.

      The government and several non-governmental
      organisations are trying to check the spread of
      HIV, but a combination of poverty and
      ignorance are frustrating the multi-sectoral
      efforts.

      *****

      Bubonic Plague Stabilises in Southern Malawi

      BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, July 26, 2000) -
      Bubonic plague, which was first reported early June in the southernmost Malawi
      district of Nsanje, has now stabilised, a local administrator said.

      George Chitimbe, environmental officer of Nsanje district, said that at least 78
      people have so far been suspected of having been affected by the disease.

      "But it is now confinable and there is no cause for alarm," he told PANA.

      MacLean Sandiyawo, the Malawi/Mozambique boarder post health officer, said
      he alerted the Nsanje district health officials when he got a report that at least 80
      people were affected by the disease in the Mozambican town of Dovu, about 30
      km from the border.

      "It only took two weeks for the disease to spread to the Malawian side of the
      border," he said.

      Bubonic plague, which causes swellings mostly in the armpits and groins and
      induces malaria-like fever, is a contagious disease spread by fleas found on
      rodents like rats and mice.

      Chitimbe said quarantining the affected people mainly controls the spread of the
      disease. A chemical called Coopex is spread in homes to kill the fleas but where
      there is no Coopex, communities are encouraged to boil water and pour it in
      their houses.

      But community health nurse Melenia Mukongwa complained that quarantining
      patients sometimes becomes a headache because most of them loathe the idea
      of abandoning their household duties for a week.

      "Some people actually run away thereby risking further spread of the disease,"
      she cited.

      Mukongwa said patients, who are normally treated with Chloraphenical, are
      supposed to be observed at a quarantine area for seven days.
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