Maternal health in Malawi in pictures, with a side-order of HIV myths

A new piece from the Huffington Post centers around a gallery of photos of some maternal health efforts in Malawi. It’s pretty informative and interesting, and I like that it highlights the successes the country has had in moving toward the Millennium Development Goals. Most coverage of Africa in the rich-country press has missed this kind of success, choosing to focus on the (sexier, better-selling) negative stories. If anything, the pictures seem a little too positive: the clinics I’ve visited in Malawi don’t look nearly as nice as the ones photographed for this story. This might be because the author decided to focus on a couple of clinics in the capital, and there’s probably also an element of the aid organizations mentioned wanting to put a positive spin on things.

The author still leans on the same flawed conventional wisdom about HIV in Africa, though: while listing the country’s challenges he states that “Antiretroviral therapy drugs and HIV education still are not widely available”. While ARV accessibility isn’t great, it’s unclear to me how he got the impression that HIV education is not widely available in the country. As I never tire of pointing how, Malawians are very knowledgeable about HIV prevention and transmission, and actually know more about it than Americans do.

So where did this come from? It might just be repeating something that seems true without bothering to check into it, but my best guess is that he asked about HIV education and people told him what he wanted to hear: either Malawians deferring to an outsider with high status, or NGOs looking to boost support for their efforts.

Regardless, the pictures are fascinating and highlight a drop in infant mortality whose importance can’t be overstated.

Hat tip: Lauren Bowen Fisher

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