Zimbabwe has a lot to teach the world in HIV/Aids fight – UNAIDS

10 Dec, 2023 - 00:12 0 Views
Zimbabwe has a lot to teach the world in HIV/Aids fight – UNAIDS UNAIDS executive director Ms Winnie Byanyima

The Sunday News

Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter

ZIMBABWE has been identified as one of the top five countries in Africa that have made positive strides in ending Aids and reducing new infections as evidenced by its achievement of the 95-95-95 targets earlier than expected.

The 95-95-95 targets were set by UNAIDS and they entail that 95 percent of the population must know its status, 95 percent of these people must be initiated on antiretrovirals, and 95 percent of the same population must be virally suppressed.

UNAIDS executive director Ms Winnie Byanyima who has been in the country for World Aids Day and the International Conference of Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA) said Zimbabwe worked hard to reach its current status and should be given the credit that it deserved.

“I am here because Zimbabwe is ‘killing it’ in HIV/Aids. This is one problem where Zimbabwe has a lot to teach the rest of the world. I came to mark World Aids Day here in Zimbabwe to showcase the successes of Zimbabwe in fighting HIV/Aids. We have some targets. We are racing towards 2030, that is the target where we want to have ended Aids as a public health threat.

We have midway targets that we set for 2025, the countries that reach those midway targets of 2025 are on course to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Zimbabwe is one of five African countries that last year hit the midterm goals halfway towards the final goal. Zimbabwe hit the goals of 95 percent of people living with HIV knowing their status, of those 95 percent are on treatment and of those 95 percent are virally suppressed and they are not infecting others,” said Ms Byanyima.

The executive director said Zimbabwe reached 95 targets well before 2025 together with Tanzania, Rwanda, Eswatini and Botswana.

“These are the countries moving fast although this is the centre of this disease, globally. The majority of people living with HIV are in this region of eastern and southern Africa. We are also the region making the fastest progress towards ending Aids and Zimbabwe is on course to reaching the 2030 targets. This is because Zimbabwe understands that it has to close inequalities that drive HIV and it closes them through policies, laws, and programming that respect the evidence that goes after what science says,” she said.

Ms Byanyima met some key populations, who are drivers of HIV in Victoria Falls and said she now had a greater understanding of Zimbabwe’s success in attaining the UNAIDS set targets.

She said Zimbabwe succeeded in managing HIV well as it had rolled away barriers that some key populations like sex workers had in a bid to get health services. This has seen many of its population accessing healthcare and particularly HIV prevention and treatment drugs which have assisted in curbing the spread of HIV.

She added that key populations needed to also have a place where they access services in dignity and where there were no staring eyes or pointing fingers.

“This is what Africa and the rest of the world need, non-discrimination from the standpoint of health, Zimbabwe is doing it. Zimbabwe moved up the age of consent to protect young girls successfully. Zimbabwe is doing the things in the policy and programme areas that are rolling back the disease,” she added.

According to UNAIDS, in 2022, 630 000 deaths in the world were from HIV and Aids with most being from Africa. A total of 1,3 million new infections were recorded most being from Africa again with the face of new infections being that of a girl or young woman. Statistics show that 63 percent of the new infections in Africa are from girls and young women.

“This is an injustice, it also has to do with these young girls not being in school, so we must move and get them in a school where they are safe. It is also to do with social norms, gender-based violence, and sexual violence that women tolerate, we don’t condemn or punish, many men get away with it, and they sleep with little girls. It could be a teacher even a relative or an elder in the community, sexual violence is not supposed to be tolerated, it must be discouraged. We must get our cultures to protect girls,” said Ms Byanyima.

She added that despite the decrease of HIV infections in the country, they were not decreasing fast enough for girls and young women saying the biggest game changer would be keeping them in school for as long as possible.

Furthermore, she said, Zimbabwe was making progress towards ending Aids because sex education was being taught in the school. She urged other countries to follow suit and impart the vital information to learners adding that those that were not doing so were leaving young people, especially girls, to learn issues of sex, health, and their bodies from untrusted sources leading to a lot of misinformation and subsequent infection of the girls.

Ms Byanyima said this year the World Aids Day theme, “Let communities lead” was a reminder that communities were at the core of the HIV and Aids fight saying they know where to find those who needed treatment, those who needed condoms or testing. She said communities fight against repressive laws regarding people’s health adding that they were a vital cog that would aid nations win the war against HIV and AIDS. @NyembeziMu

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