Govt targets 12m for HIV testing

HARARE - Government has put in motion plans for a serious assault on HIV by targeting a staggering 12,5 million people for voluntary testing as part of its audacious bid to wipe out the pandemic.

The ambitious programme which is targeting almost 90 percent of the population would be implemented under a four year plan.

This is part of a $103 million government HIV testing strategy which aims to increase the number of people who know their status.

The testing strategy is also part of the government’s efforts to achieving the 90-90-90 target, which seeks to have 90 percent of people with HIV 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 2020.

In its strategy, government seeks to have two million paediatrics and 10,5 million adolescents and adults tested by 2020.

“Testing targets for children aged 0-14 years have been adapted from the ‘National Accelerated Action Plan for the National Scale-up of Infant, Paediatric and Adolescent ART in Zimbabwe:2015-2018’, updated to account for performance in 2015 and the country’s adoption of the Start free, Stay free Aids framework in 2016.

“Targets for adults and adolescents were set by a multi-stakeholder consultative effort in order to ensure that 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status,” government said in its strategy document.

The country has established 17 service delivery points for testing adults to reach various populations.

Zimbabwe has an HIV prevalence rate of 13, 7 percent, and according to the 2016 national estimates, approximately 1,3 million people are living with HIV, with 86 000 being children.

The country has been making strides in its fight against HIV/Aids despite the current economic turmoil which health experts say has hit most of hospitals major operations, including procuring essential drugs for people living with the pandemic.

In the last seven years, new HIV infections have fallen by 50 percent on the back of awareness and expanded treatment programmes.

During the presentation of  his state of the nation address on HIV/Aids in December, Health minister David Parirenyatwa 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.

“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.

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