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Malawi govt. ends stipends to HIV+ employees;
accuses them of buying booze, sex
  Thursday, 09 June 2011 14:04
ATLANTA, US--Malawi has scrapped a program that gave allowances to its 40, 000 civil servants who carry the virus known to cause Aids, saying they abused the scheme and used the money on booze and sex.
Mary Shaba, secretary for nutrition, HIV and Aids, said Thursday the government will from now on give a monthly "nutrition food bag" equivalent to $35.
"The money was not spent on its intended purpose to buy extra food and improve nutrition," said Shaba in a statement. "Some people used the money to buy beers and go out with prostitutes, further spreading the virus."
Shaba, the architect of the programme launched in 2007, said hundreds of civil servants claimed to have HIV - 14 percent of the country's population carries the virus - and collected the money.
The government said the monthly allowances were a civil service workplace programme aimed at boosting nutrition to allow HIV positive patients to respond to treatment faster.
The southern African nation has 170,000 civil servants who, on average, make $100 a month. It is estimated that up to half of the country's 13 million people survive on less than one dollar a day which isn't enough to buy nutritious food.
It's unclear whether Malawi's decision to end the scheme is a result of Britain suspending aid to the country. Britain, Malawi main bilateral aid giver, recently cut aid after Malawi expelled its top diplomat who had described Pres Bingu wa Mutharika's rule as autocratic.
Britain had warned her former colony of 'consequences' if it went ahead with its decision. Up to 40 percent of the country's development budget is supported by donors. Last Friday, Malawi's finance minister Ken Kandodo unveiled the country's 2011/12 zero deficit budget (ZDB) which is supposed to depend, largely, on local revenues.
Vice Pres Joyce Banda has said the ZDB was a sign that the Malawi government was broke.--maravipost
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