Zim scores big on HIV control

HARARE - in a rare piece of good news for trouble-wracked Zimbabwe, the government has revealed the welcome fall of new HIV infections in the country by 50 percent in the last seven years.

Presenting his state of the nation address on HIV/Aids last week, Health minister David Parirenyatwa also announced that the country had recorded an equally impressive drop in HIV-related deaths, which fell from 3 000 a week to 900 during the same period.

All in all, new HIV infections dropped from an estimated 82 570 in 2009 to 42 314 in 2016, raising hopes that Zimbabwe is on course to achieve its ambitious target to manage the pandemic by 2020.

“HIV prevention remains Zimbabwe’s number one priority. In this regard, it is pleasing to note that new infections have dropped from over 82 570 in 2009 to an estimated 42 314 this year.

“This reduction has been on account of the comprehensive combination of high impact HIV prevention interventions, which include HIV-testing services, prevention of mother-to-child (PMTC) infection, condom promotion and distribution, treatment as prevention, behaviour change and voluntary medical male circumcision,” Parirenyatwa said.

He added that the government wanted 90 percent of people with HIV to know their status, 90 percent of diagnosed people to be on treatment, and 90 percent of those on treatment to have suppressed levels of the virus in their bodies by 20120.

This would translate to about 73 percent of all people living with HIV having an undetectable viral load.

Parirenyatwa said the provision of treatment to people living with HIV to improve their quality of life and avert death was one of the key anchors of Zimbabwe’s national response.

“In this regard, I am pleased to note that 930 000 people are on treatment out of the 1,4 million in need. As a result of the rapid expansion of services over the years, the number of people dying due to Aids has dropped from 3 000 per week in 2004 to less than 900 deaths per week in 2015,” he said.

The expansion of treatment was also helping to reduce new infections as people who were stable and on treatment had a lower viral load and therefore less chance of transmitting HIV to others.

The minister said Zimbabwe also needed to scale up the roll-out of “Option B plus”, a treatment regimen in which all pregnant women living with HIV are offered lifelong ART, regardless of their CD4 count.

“In resonance with the theme ‘closing the tap of new infections’, Zimbabwe has developed the HIV prevention revitalisation roadmap, which seeks to close the tap of new HIV infections.

“In this regard, our interventions should now be population and geography specific, targeting HIV hotspots and prioritising most at risk and key affected populations, especially young people in tertiary institutions, sex workers, prisoners, cross border truck drivers and artisanal miners as well as adolescents and young women.

“These interventions should be offered in a combination model to save resources and optimise their uptake,” Parirenyatwa said.

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