Editor's Comment

Let’s keep on track

UNDER the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control (2017-2020), Zambia is identified as one of 10 high-HIV burden countries on course to achieving epidemic control by the end of 2020.
It is of absolute importance that we keep on this track.
The goal is expected to be achieved in partnership with Government, and through the achievement of the 90-90-90 framework — 90 percent of people living with HIV (PLHIV), know their status; 90 percent of people who know their status are accessing treatment; and 90 percent of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads.
Besides the 90-90-90 framework, additional focus is placed on preventing new HIV infections through high-impact, evidence-based programmes.
So the U$4 billion the United States government has given Zambia towards the HIV epidemic control by 2020 is just what Zambia needs.
More importantly, the support is yielding the right results and this financial help has continued with an additional grant of US$421 million in a very short pipeline.
The latest grant comes in the wake of a strong partnership between Zambia and the US.
Zambia, as stated by Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya, is grateful for this support because it will significantly contribute to the country achieving its goal of controlling the HIV epidemic by 2020.
Clearly, Zambia is on track and it has to keep on this path. It is not easy, but with the right focus, approach and support, it can be done.
It is fortunate that Zambia has partners such as the US, which is not only sympathetic, but is also putting money where its mouth is.
The best way for Zambia to show gratitude for this gesture is to ensure that the money is put to good use. This will be evidenced by what credible statistics will be, come 2020.
Through PEPFAR, the US Government has been supporting the integrated response partnering with the Ministry of Health and National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council (NAC).
In fiscal year 2019, Zambia received US$385 million for programmes targeting HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and health systems strengthening in support of Zambia’s achievement of the 90-90-90 HIV epidemic control goal.
For next year, the country will receive over $421 million.
Since its inception in 2004, PEPFAR Zambia has received over US$3.9 billion (over K46 billion) in support of the people living with HIV in Zambia.
Today, PEPFAR funds HIV testing services for more than 4.3 million Zambians and, through the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services, has reduced the number of children born with HIV and supports over 900,000 Zambians with life-saving anti-retroviral medicines, who if they continue to take their medicines, can live long, healthy lives.
PEPFAR brings together five US government agencies in Zambia to endorse a single strategy and implement one programme led by the Ambassador. These are: Centres for Disease Control (CDC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Defence (DoD – including DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme DHAPP), Department of State (DoS), and Peace Corps (PC).
This goodwill by the American people should be appreciated and reciprocated by the country’s health sector.
The country should heed US Ambassador Daniel Foote’s advice that Zambia should apply innovative approaches to prevent new HIV infections.
All the actors involved in HIV epidemic control – the health sector, the church, civil society, traditional leaders, trade unions – should roll up their sleeves and complement Government in this quest.
This is a common quest and impacts everyone, so we expect everyone to be part of this effort, considering that HIV/AIDS is one of the country’s most significant public health challenges.
While the US government is helping by meeting the funding gaps, the task of fighting the epidemic rests with the country by adopting sound lifestyles.
Zambians should by all means avoid risky behaviours that are likely to make them vulnerable to contracting HIV.
In the event that they contract HIV, they should get tested and embark on anti-retroviral therapy treatment as opposed to being in denial and visiting witch doctors whose prescription is contrary to World Health Organisation guidelines.
Let us remain healthy.
A healthy population is critical to attaining the much needed economic emancipation.

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