Walter Nyamukondiwa Chinhoyi Bureau
Zimbabwe has managed to put one million people on antiretroviral (ART) treatment as it moves closer to universal access amid concern over a steady rate of new infections. Surveys this year have shown that new infections have remained steady at around 40 000 every year, worryingly with 16 000 of those being females who have never or are yet to get married. In his presentation at an editor’s workshop recently, National Aids Council operations director Mr Raymond Yekeye said more needed to be done to manage the situation.

“Our incident (new infections) has dropped to 0,48 percent from 0,98 percent in 2011,” he said.

“What we have planned as a country is to reduce our incident by half by 2018 and we have already done that in less than the period we were looking at.

“We have a fairly large treatment programme and our coverage is around 76 percent.

“We are celebrating this year that we have initiated the first one million people on antiretrovial treatment.”

At least 300 000 HIV positive people are yet to be initiated on antiretrovial treatment.

Mr Yekeye said of major concern was the number of new infections that were occurring and NAC had increased the annual allocation for HIV to 21 percent from 15 percent to deal with the challenge.

The new generation, he said, was growing up in an “era of complacency”, which needed new approaches on behaviour change and prevention.

Mr Yekeye said the country grappled with the negative impact of treatment, including drug resistance, new strains of HIV and non-communicable diseases such as cancer.

“It seems cancer is more acceptable as a cause of death than HIV, but we have seen that most people dying of cancers are on ART,” he said.

“There is a very close relationship between the two.”

NAC monitoring and evaluation coordinator Mr Isaac Taramusi called for gender sensitive initiatives in relation to HIV.

“It seems the prevalence is lower for those who are married and in a stable relationship as compared to those who are widowed or divorced,” said Mr Taramusi.

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