HIV infections in Zimbabwe have gone down 44 percent as the country eyes a 75 percent reduction by 2020. This has been attributed to massive multisectoral responses against the epidemic.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Dr Shannon Hader revealed this at the launch of the Zimbabwe Health Situation Room on Friday.
“We have all committed worldwide to fast track targets that are going to help us end HIV as a public health threat by 2030. And you have heard about some of these targets. Reaching 90-90-90 for treatment, reducing new infections by 75 percent by 2020.
“So we can really get there together. And in Zimbabwe, new infections have already dropped by 44 percent since the beginning of that measurement period. And that is because of focused HIV prevention and scale up of treatment,” she said.
She emphasized the need to be all-inclusive when providing treatment and testing services in Zimbabwe.
“What was unimaginable with our HIV response in the early 2000s was for the three by five. I really think in the next five years, this is going to be even tougher. Because the thing is we have to be able to reach people who haven’t been reached yet. People who haven’t come to the services that are already there.
“We need to know where the specific gaps are so that prevention and treatment can be targeted to these people. When we talk about numbers and goals, it sounds like numbers but these are actually people, when we fall short of our targets, it’s not numbers we are leaving behind, these are people that we are actually missing. People who need to be reached, to help the country be stronger and healthier,” said Dr Hader.
Dr Hader lauded the efforts by the country in its journey towards ending the pandemic.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be with you here today. I do have the privilege of coming back and see different points of rapid acceleration, leaps and gains in Zimbabwe against the HIV response over time. As a medical student I was here in the ‘90s where I saw HIV prevention programs nationally, condom promotion and I also saw the National Aids Levy that was trying to make sure we get care to people who are suffering and dying from HIV and Aids needing ARVs for treatment.
“I was privileged to come back and at the beginning of the initiative, it seemed like an impossible goal to reach 3 million people on treatment by 2005. We all jumped in together and Zimbabwe was one of the countries in the lead and that loud. This might be impossible but we are going to do what we can. And I got to see the national response go from fewer than 400 people on life saving HIV treatment and over 40 000 within three years and it doubled to 80 0 00 the next year and they are 1, 1 million now. So I absolutely know as we go to the next phase of HIV response, Zimbabwe has the power to really lead the way. Zimbabwe has made significant strides since even 2010,” she said.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said Zimbabwe adopted an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic in the country by reaching 90 percent of all people living with HIV with testing services, providing 90 percent of HIV Positive people that know their status with sustained antiretroviral therapy and ensure that 90 percent of those on treatment have durable viral load suppression. 90-90-90.
“To make this ambition a reality, there is need to improve access to health services by the people who need them the most. HIV and Health Situation room aims to help speed up and streamline communications between policy makers and implementers to have Zimbabwe stay on track to reach the national HIV and Health Targets as well as the sustainable development goal,” he said.