Victor Maphosa Mashonaland East Bureau
Despite the Covid-19 related disruptions, which had threatened to reverse treatment outcomes, Zimbabwe’s HIV and Aids treatment programme has regained its composure and added nearly 100 000 new people in 2022, who are now part of the 1,2 million receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has said.
He made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Mashonaland East Dr Aplonia Munzverengwi during the 2022 and 34th commemoration of World AIDS Day and launch of the annual campaign held at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera yesterday.
The 2022-2023 World Aids Day theme is “Equalize”.
“After having achieved the 90-90-90 by 2020, I would like to report that Zimbabwe has already achieved the 95-95-95 targets well ahead of the 2025 target date,” said VP Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care.
“HIV prevalence, at 11.58 percent in 2021 has hovered around 12 percent for more than five years now, which is a seal of approval of the effectiveness of our treatment and prevention programmes.
“At the same time, the number of people newly infected with HIV has declined to 22 800 in 2021 from 26,900 in 2019, while that of people accessing treatment has risen from 88.45 percent in 2019 to 92.43 percent of people living with HIV in 2021.
“I am also glad that the number of people dying due to AIDS has dropped to 20,200 in 2021 from 22,500 in 2020. This recovery following Covid-19 disruptions speaks of the elasticity and resilience of the country’s response to HIV and our potential to achieve epidemic control.”
VP Chiwenga said the World AIDS Day continued to be a very befitting part of the global and national response to HIV and AIDS, for people to remember those that died of AIDS and reflect on the effectiveness and impact of the efforts to tame the pandemic.
“Indeed, these commemorations are guided by the theme: “EQUALISE”, which is a build-up from the one for last year, which as you know emphasised ending inequalities as a part of ending AIDS,” he said. “The theme is supported by a localised pay-off slogan, abbreviated A-E-I-O-U, underlining issues of Access, Empowerment, Inclusivity, Opportunities and the Upholding of human rights.
“The theme seeks to spur us to take deliberate actions to ensure that all people, including those in risk groups have access to services and are not hindered by any form of inequalities, be they policy, structural, social or physical.
“Government and developing partners are ensuring that all people are served, through deliberate and targeted in provision of HIV prevention and treatment services. The thrust is for groups that would otherwise be inhibited in their quest for services due to inequalities and disproportionate exposure. Zimbabwe is among the first countries to decriminalise voluntary transmission of HIV.
“As a country, we have also expanded access to HIV prevention services for all people, including sex workers, adolescent girls and young women. The Ministry of Health and Child Care has introduced differentiated care models for targeted and choice-based provision of condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis and other services without leaving anyone behind. This has helped in shattering stigma and discrimination while increasing yield.”
VP Chiwenga said his the Ministry of Health and Child Care approved the safe and highly effective long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) for HIV prevention, making Zimbabwe the first country in Africa and the third in the world to do so.
He said this drug will enhance and increase HIV prevention options and outcomes of people at substantial risk of HIV infection.
He added that though the national response had been performed well, there were some gaps which needed to be worked on.
“Our response has performed well, but there are still gaps that we have to plug as part of equalising access,” said VP Chiwenga. “These gaps are around access to and utilisation of services by the most at risk and vulnerable groups, including sex workers, adolescent girls and young women and prisoners among others.”
“The year 2023 is already beckoning and my Ministry will scale up all high impact interventions to achieve the objectives of the World AIDS campaign theme. Let me also make a call unto our partners and donors to continue supporting us in optimizing HIV prevention and treatment, and leaving no one behind.”
The commemorations were attended by several people from across the country who said the day was important for them as it continued to remind them of the importance of living a healthy life and to take good care of those who were affected and infected with the virus.
Amai Wayne from Rusike, Marondera, called on everyone to be courageous enough and get tested for HIV .
She urged school children the most to desist from engaging in sexual activities and encouraged everyone to always practice safe sex.
“I have learnt a lot today,” she said. “I advise our children to focus on their studies. They should not indulge in sexual activities and should desist from drug and substance abuse.”
Ms Vuyiswa Ncube (20) called on other youths to always know their HIV status.
“Testing and knowing your HIV status is the right thing to do for yourself and others. If one is positive to HIV, he or she can get medication and live longer. I also encourage youths to always practice safe sex which include using condoms,” she said.
“If we play our part in this fight against HIV and AIDS, we can win this war, together.”
Mr Yafadzwa Jimu said World AIDS Day commemorations were important as there was a lot of useful information being spread to the people.
He said it was important for people to have knowledge about HIV and AIDS and encouraged other youths to get tested.
“These events are important to us youths,” said Mr Jimu. “I urge youths to always be careful and be responsible. There is nothing wrong in knowing your status, actually it is important because you can get medication than living in the dark.
“So, I encourage people to always visit health institutions and get tested.”