Drivers explain Aids campaign
Vienna - Bicycle taxi drivers from Malawi attending the World Aids conference explained on Sunday how they developed their own campaign in the fight against the disease.
"A lot of girls were offering sex instead of paying the fare," said Frank Mulawa, a 24-year-old bicycle taxi driver from the region of Nsanje.
"But we don't want sex for our services. We're bicycle taxi drivers because we're poor. We need money."
Mulawa, who has worked as a driver since the age of 14 following the death of both his parents, estimated that around one in five bicycle taxi drivers was infected.
So he and a group of around 20 other colleagues took it upon themselves to start an information campaign for both their passengers and other drivers.
This was no small task in Malawi, which is one of the world's least developed nations and has been ravaged by Aids.
"On average, I can advise 10 people a day," Mulawa said. But he was careful about how to broach the subject, he added.
"You have to build up a relationship, start a conversation and bit by bit the topic of Aids comes up."
Mulawa said he and his colleagues had also started taking their Aids awareness campaign to local schools.
And the drivers' campaign, while modest, was already having an effect, said Maclean Sosono, head of Friends of Aids Support Trust (Fast), a campaign group based in Nsanje, in the south of the country, which supports their project.
"Thanks to this and other projects, HIV prevalence came down in this district," he said.
The taxi-cyclists launched their campaign in a country where infant mortality is already high and the adult life expectancy very low: an estimated 11.9% of Malawi's population of 15 million is infected with Aids.
But at the end of May, UNAids, the United Nations' Aids programme, congratulated Malawi on reducing the prevalence of the disease over the past five years.