Zimbabwe now has nearly 1.2 million people on Anti-Retroviral drugs which has resulted in annual AIDS related deaths declining to 20 000 in 2019 from 54 000 in 2010, Vice President Chiwenga has said.
Officiating through a recording to mark the commemoration of the 2020 World AIDS Day and launch of the annual campaign held at Rainbow Towers yesterday, VP Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care said through the intensification of HIV prevention interventions over the years, Zimbabwe has continued with the trend of reducing new infections which now stand at 40 000 compared to 47,000 in 2016.
“The country shall prioritise interventions targeting sub-populations with higher incidence and prevalence such as sex workers, prison inmates, adolescent girls and young women and youth in general and other key populations, as well as other groups like artisanal miners and mobile transporters whose occupational dynamics increase their risk to HIV.
“At the same time, focus will be intensified towards reducing mother to child transmission and public provision of prevention devices such as condoms following the temporal shortages during COVID-19 disruptions,” said VP Chiwenga.
With the theme running, Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility, VP Chiwenga said it was befitting of the circumstances the country was in.
“We are all affected and therefore must stand together in addressing HIV and COVID-19 as well as various epidemics.
“This commemoration serves as both a national and global platform for the community of nations to remember those that have died due to AIDS and reflect on the progress we have recorded in 2020 in responding to the pandemic as well as rededicate ourselves to revitalising the response and change its trajectory towards ending AIDS by 2030.
“We are commemorating the World AIDS Day this year under unprecedented circumstances, which have been forced upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact has been far reaching for humanity across the globe. Lives have been lost, ways of life have been altered, geographies, social and economic spaces have all been altered too.”
He said COVID-19 has been a major wake-up call for our health delivery system.
“COVID-19 caught us unawares and we have had to learn as we go, including collaborating with regional and global partners in building systems and structures as well as introducing necessary social and economic adjustments to tackle the pandemic.”
“Although implementation of HIV interventions was heavily curtailed by COVID-19, essential clinic based services such as provision of condoms, prevention of mother child transmission, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and others continued to be offered even during the lockdown.
“At the same time, provision of antiretroviral therapy was not affected and was buttressed with innovations such as multi-month dispensing being strengthened.
“It is pleasing to note that despite the COVID-19 related setbacks, HIV interventions are regaining their traction and continuing to impact people’s lives,” VP Chiwenga said.
He said the country was now geared towards epidemic control and was now focusing on ensuring that the death rate among HIV positive people should be less than or equal to the death rate in the general population while bringing new infections to equal or lower than the number of AIDS related deaths.
“We have almost come to the end of 2020, which is the target year for the 90-90-90 campaign, where-in 90 percent of HIV positive people should know their status, 90 percent of those HIV positive should be on treatment and 90 percent of those on treatment should be virally suppressed.
“Based on the results of our recently held Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA 2020), Zimbabwe is now closer than ever to the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
“As said by His Excellence (Mnangagwa) in his HIV and AIDS State of the Nation Address last evening, I am happy to inform you that on the first 90, 86.8 percent of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe now know their status.
“This is a 10 percent increase from 76.8 percent recorded in the previous survey in 2015. I am also happy to inform you that 97 percent of people living with HIV are now on lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is quite an improvement from the previous 88.4 percent recorded in the last ZIMPHIA. For those on antiretroviral therapy, 90.3% of them have achieved viral load suppression, compared to the previous 85.3 percent.
“Such impressive results should then pave way for us a nation to formally aim for the 95-95-95 targets by 2030,” he said.
He said the government was committed to the response to HIV and ending AIDS by 2030.
Speaking at the same occasion National Aids Council CEO Dr Bernard Madzima said Zimbabwe was targeting to reduce new HIV infections by 80 percent by 2025, reduce AIDS deaths by 80 percent by 2025 and to attain zero HIV stigma and discrimination.
“Now that the 90-90-90 targets are within grasp, we now have to aim for 95-95-95 targets as we position ourselves for epidemic control.
“To achieve this, we have to make strategic adjustments some of which we are already implementing particularly shifting from a national level planning approach to district responses micro-targeting locations and populations based on evidence.
“This includes scaling up services for most at risk and key populations such as sex workers, prisoners, adolescent girls and young women and others from where the bulk of new infections are coming,” Dr Madzima said.
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