Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe has made commendable progress in reversing the course of the AIDS pandemic through prevention of new HIV infections and the provision of treatment to those infected despite economic challenges being faced by the country.
The implementation of the bulk of planned HIV and AIDS interventions this year was disrupted by Covid-19 but this did not affect Government’s focus on the HIV pandemic.
This was said by President Mnangagwa last night while addressing the nation on the eve of the World Aids Day commemoration.
This year’s commemoration, which will be held virtually in line with Government’s policy to minimise the risk of the transmission of Covid-19, will run under the theme “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility”.
President Mnangagwa said the nation had progressed in reversing the course of the AIDS pandemic particularly through the prevention of new HIV infections and provision of treatment to those who are infected in line with the pursuit of the 90-90-90 by 2020 target.
“Ninety percent of people living with HIV should know their status by 2020, 90 percent of all HIV positive people should receive treatment by 2020, 90 percent of all people on treatment should have their viral load suppressed by 2020.
“I am glad that in the context of the 90-90-90 targets, our country is now closer than ever to the goal of ending the AIDS pandemic by 2020,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said encouraging results of the recently held Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA 2020) indicated that on the first 90, 86,8 percent of people living with HIV now know their HIV status, recording 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 anti-retroviral therapy (ART) which is quite an improvement from the previous 88,4 percent. For those on antiretroviral therapy, 90,3 percent of them have achieved viral load suppression compared to 85,3 percent in the previous survey,” he said.
The President said it was pleasing that new infections had declined from 47 000 in 2016 to 40 000 in 2019 on account of the comprehensive combination of high impact HIV prevention interventions, which include HIV testing services, prevention of mother to child infection, condom promotion and distribution, treatment as prevention, behaviour change and voluntary medical male circumcision.
“Of the 1,3 million HIV positive people in Zimbabwe, 97 percent are now on antiretroviral therapy up from 88 percent in 2015.
“Through a robust national ART programme that has been enhanced by high retention, the number of people dying due to AIDS has also significantly fallen to 20 000 in 2019 from 22 000 in 2018 and 23 000 in 2016. What is most pleasing is that we have recorded these achievements despite our economic challenges,” he said.
He said Government had embarked on a process of restructuring the Ministry of Health and Child Care to make it more responsive to modern national health challenges at all levels including addressing the emerging non communicable diseases.
“I assure all people living with HIV that my Government in this new dispensation will continue to prioritise allocation of foreign currency for the purchase of ARVs, related medical commodities and medications for the health of our people.”
He expressed gratitude to the international community for continuing to honour their pledges in support of response to HIV even in the face of challenges in their own countries.
“My Government has embarked on a process of restoring the past glory of our health delivery system through a deliberate deployment of resources. From community level to district level, right up to provincial and national referral hospitals, work is in progress to ensure universal health coverage for our people.
“Both public and private investments in health will be prioritised as we move to make our health delivery systems world class by 2030.
He noted that the country was still far off the mark in terms of achieving zero infections and said there was need to double HIV prevention efforts focusing on geographical areas and population sub groups with high risk and new infections especially adolescents, girls and young women, sex workers and key populations.
He said this gap had to be addressed to achieve the resulted fast track target by 2020 and end AIDS by 2030.
President Mnangagwa challenged the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the National Aids Council and their partners to forge new strategies to reach those people who are holding back from HIV testing and ensure they are tested and are linked with relevant services.