Harare records milestone in HIV/AIDS fight

ZIMBABWE has surpassed the 95-95-95 United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAIDS) prevention targets before the 2025 deadline, marking a huge milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

The targets were set in 2020 by UNAIDS in a drive to curb AIDS.

The goal is to ensure 95 percent of all people living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection receive sustained anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and 95 percent of all people receiving ART have viral suppression by 2025.

Latest statistics from the National Aids Council (NAC) show that 96 percent of all people living with HIV now know their status, 97 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection are now on sustained ART, and for those on treatment, 95 percent are virally suppressed. NAC chief executive officer Dr Bernard Madzima credited the achieve-ments to robust domestic funding and strong political will by the country’s leadership.

“The huge milestone is attributable to the fact that the HIV programme is very strong and has received support from the highest level. There is strong political commitment and strong leadership in the HIV programme as evidenced by the setting up of NAC, which administers NAC trust funds, commonly known as the AIDS levy,” he said.

Dr Madzima said the country had managed to build confidence among partners to invest in HIV programmes.

“We have strong partnerships with the Global Fund, USAID, PEPFAR and other multilateral and bilateral organisations. So, the HIV programmes have received financial, technical and moral support from these partners,” he said, adding that had it not been for Covid-19, the numbers could even have been better.

Ministry of Health and Child Care national ART coordinator Dr Chiedza Mupanduki confirmed that their latest figures in relation to the 95-95-95 targets stand at 96-97-95.

“We have made significant progress as a country. The number of people living with HIV is currently at 1,3 million, and of these, more than 1,2 million are on treatment. We have managed to decentralise ART centres from only seven in 2004, when we started giving out antiretroviral drugs, to more than 1 700 health facilities currently,” she said.

ART coordinator Dr Chiedza Mupanduki

Health experts have attributed the positive development to open-minded leaders, who incorporate all stakeholders in the fight against HIV and Aids.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Dr Johannes Marisa said vigorous campaigns and uninterrupted supply of ART by Government and partners contributed to this milestone.

“We have never had cases of shortage of medication in all health facilities. This is something the Government should be applauded for,” he said.

Johannes Marisa

The latest development makes Zimbabwe the second Southern African country after Botswana to surpass the 95-95-95 targets.

In 2020, Zimbabwe had the sixth-highest HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1,3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years living with HIV.

The country made substantial progress towards achieving UNAIDS targets of 90-90-90 during the same year, with 86,8 percent of people living with HIV diagnosed, 97 percent of those diagnosed on ART and 90,3 percent of those on ART virally suppressed.

Last month, Zimbabwe became the first country in Africa to approve the use of the long-acting injectable cabotegravir as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention, a move that health experts say will greatly reduce the burden of HIV and Aids.

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