Zimbabwe reaches HIV fight milestone President Mnangagwa

Wallace Ruzvidzo-Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWE has managed to control the HIV/AIDS pandemic and ultimately achieve the 95-95-95 Joint United Nations Programme (UNAIDS) targets on HIV/AIDS resulting in a decrease in infections and deaths, President Mnangagwa has said.

As of this year, only three Sub-Saharan African countries including Zimbabwe have achieved the UNAIDS 95-95-95 objectives.

In addition to the achievements, Zimbabwe’s Anti-Retroviral Therapy coverage currently stands at 99 percent of the 1,3 million HIV positive people.

UNAIDS 95-95-95, denotes that 95 percent of people on treatment have their viral load undetectable, while 95 percent of all HIV positive people know their status and 95 percent of those who know their status are on treatment.

Over the past 10 years, Zimbabwe has recorded the highest decline of 78 percent, in new HIV infections in Eastern and Southern Africa, making the country a trendsetter in HIV prevention and treatment.

In his speech to mark World AIDS Day commemorations today, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had recorded tremendous gains in fighting the pandemic, albeit under adversity.

He said ultimately, Zimbabwe was committed to working towards ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.

The theme of this year’s commemorations is “Let Communities Lead”.

“We join others in the comity of nations in celebrating the achievements recorded to date and recommit ourselves to ending HIV/ AIDS.

“Despite the negative impact of Covid-19, our country’s response to HIV remains on course. I am, therefore, pleased to announce that we have achieved epidemic control.

“Presently, new infections are now less than the number of deaths per year. Over the past 10 years, Zimbabwe recorded the highest decline of 78 percent in new HIV infections in Eastern and Southern Africa,” he said.

President Mnangagwa however, charged the nation not to be complacent but rather redouble efforts to “mop up new infections” as well as increase focus on the most-at-risk groups.

He applauded the countrywide community engagement activities such as those being spearheaded by the First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, saying they were going a long way in eradicating the pandemic.

“The enthusiasm and participation during the countrywide community engagement campaigns being undertaken by the First Lady, Amai Mnangagwa, complemented by other community-based organisations, is encouraging.

“The key messages on the importance of utilising HIV prevention services along with the importance of strong families, morally upright young people and an empowered society, remain critical to our intervention strategies.

“In addition to the progress we have recorded in HIV prevention, our country has increased the Anti-Retroviral Therapy coverage to 99 percent of the 1.3 million HIV positive people,” he said.

President Mnangagwa emphasised the need for the drug and substance abuse menace to be tackled head-on, as it is aiding new HIV infections.

He also implored the Ministry of Health and Child Care as well as relevant stakeholders to up the ante in HIV treatment coverage among children, saying a lackadaisical approach to this is not acceptable.

“However, it is most unfortunate that coverage is lagging behind among children, with HIV status known for only 64 percent of those estimated to be living with HIV. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.

“As parents and guardians, we must be more responsible to save the lives of our children and young people. I, therefore, challenge the Ministry of Health and Child Care, stakeholders as well as partners to scale up the necessary interventions, including by ensuring that all pregnant women register for antenatal care,” said the President.

“We must also tackle head-on the new drug abuse epidemic that is threatening the future of our young people and the nation. Apart from destroying the moral and intellectual fabric of our nation, drug abuse has been strongly associated with new HIV infections. We must be united as a nation in confronting this menace.”

President Mnangagwa said the country stands ready to share lessons with others around Zimbabwe’s homegrown solutions in combating HIV/AIDS, as it hosts the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2023) next week.

“In a few days’ time, our country hosts the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2023). The conference is an important platform for sharing and exchanging cutting-edge evidence and lessons in the response to HIV and other epidemics afflicting our continent and the world.

“I would like to express our gratitude to our funding and development partners who have continued to augment domestic resources over the years, and enhanced the achievements we have made.

“It is also encouraging that the 2nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa High Level Meeting of Finance Ministers from Africa, will be meeting on the sidelines of this continental event to discuss issues related to sustainable domestic funding for HIV/AIDS.

“In this regard, Zimbabwe stands ready to share lessons around our home-grown National AIDS Trust Fund, commonly known as the AIDS Levy, which has been instrumental in the successes we continue to score,” he said.

The Second Republic, said the President, would continue implementing measures to strengthen the country’s responsiveness to HIV/AIDS.

He also commended the Ministry of Health and Child Care as well as the National AIDS Council and other development partners for a well-coordinated response to the pandemic, pursuant to ending it by 2030.

“I want to assure the nation that my Government will continue to play its part, by exploring robust mechanisms to enhance the national response to HIV/AIDS and related emergencies.

“Empowered communities shall remain at the centre of our initiatives and key to our country’s response. I commend the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the National AIDS Council for coordinating the response to the pandemic.

“My gratitude also goes to all stakeholders, development partners and communities for their dedication and fruitful work in pursuit of ending AIDS by 2030.

“With these remarks, I wish the nation, memorable commemorations of the World AIDS Day,” said President Mnangagwa.

The Head of State and Government encouraged the nation to also decisively deal with other emerging epidemics.

“The progress we have made in response to HIV has to be sustained. Let us equally remain vigilant in dealing with emerging epidemics, including the associated Non-Communicable Diseases.

“Our people must, therefore, be screened regularly for common Non-Communicable Diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and kidney ailments, among others,” he said.

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