Editor's Comment

Keep HIV/AIDS fight alive

ZAMBIA Police Brass band leads Matchers during the World Aids Day commemoration in Lusaka yesterday. PICTURE ANGELA MWENDA.

AS the world was commemorating World AIDS Day yesterday, a clarion call was made that we are now faced with two pandemics that threaten public health and economies – HIV and COVID-19. Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo, who led World AIDS Day celebrations in Lusaka yesterday, was spot on when she said that we need to fight both the HIV and COVID pandemics head-on to get the desired public health and socio-economic outcomes. This is the takeaway message for Zambia and indeed the international community because both HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 are pandemics of great concern which need an equal measure of commitment from all stakeholders. This year’s World AIDS Day commemoration is unique because it comes at a time when the world is fighting two pandemics, hence the theme “End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics”. The coronavirus pandemic has created a vicious cycle that aggravates the HIV/AIDS situation and puts people living with HIV and AIDS at risk of suffering severe COVID-19 outcomes if infected. More challenging is the fact that there is now what seems as divided attention to the anti-AIDS campaign because of the emergency situation that the world is in owing to COVID-19, which in under two years has claimed 5.2 million lives globally compared to AIDS, which has taken away 33 million lives in 40 years. As expected, the new pandemic has put many nations off track the UNAIDS campaign to stop AIDS by 2030 because it has not only disrupted HIV prevention and treatment activities, but also taken away human and financial resources from the anti-AIDS campaign. It goes without question that HIV diagnostic and treatment activities have suffered a setback while we battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, this could be the reason why at a time when we are racing towards ending HIV and AIDS, Zambia has witnessed an increase in new HIV infections, as stated by the minister of Health yesterday. The message here is that the world is now faced with two life-threatening pandemics that require a lot of financial and human resources. We therefore call on the wealthy nations to come to the aid of poor countries that are struggling to fight COVID-19, mainly owing to lack of medicines and vaccines.
The poor nations, too, should seriously seek home-grown solutions, some of which could actually be the answer for the global health challenges. The fight against HIV and AIDS should not be abandoned but more financial resources should be allocated so that underlying health conditions triggered by the disease do not worsen the impact of coronavirus. It is gratifying that over the years governments, especially in Africa, have made tremendous efforts to reduce HIV infections through various interventions apart from condom use. Most people nowadays no longer view HIV as a death sentence because science has improved medication, and the stigma attached to the disease has been dealt with through sensitisation campaigns. It is on this premise that we call upon organisations involved in the HIV/AIDS fight not to falter in their efforts to push for the eradication of the disease. As Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo pointed out, there is need to aggressively address the issue of inequalities in as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned. “This development, if not curbed, has the potential of reversing the gains that we have made in the HIV response. We need to further address various inequalities that perpetuate undercover spread of HIV,” Ms Masebo said. It is important that Government decentralises the health delivery system so that no-one is left out. This is one way to deal with inequalities in the health delivery system. There is no doubt that HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 are deadly diseases, and living one unattended to in preference to the other in terms of interventions will only end up aggravating the pandemics situation.
The commemoration of World AIDS Day should reawaken the resolve by Government to continue providing health care to people living with HIV now that they are also grappling with the effects of COVID-19.



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