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PEPFAR must pay off

THERE could not have been a better signal to suggest the relationship between the United States of America and Zambia is still sound than the renewal of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) grant to Zambia to fight HIV/AIDS.
US embassy in Zambia Charge d’Affairs David Young was right when he said yesterday that giving Zambia the US$438 million for this year’s PEPFAR programme is a sign of continued cooperation which benefits both countries.
PEPFAR is one of the long-standing grants the US has been giving Zambia to fight HIV/AIDS.
The US government is one of the countries that have from the early days of the pandemic funded in a big way the fight against HIV/AIDS.
It has continued to do so to this day. Its latest round of demonstrates the US government’s desire to remain on course with its development support.
Since 2004, the US government, through PEPFAR, has collaborated with the Ministry of Health and National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council (NAC) in coordinating a national HIV response.
Last year, Zambia received US$385 million for programmes dedicated to 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.
The increase to US$438 from US$385 million (up by US$53 million) is designed to continue to grow and support these programmes.
Since its inception, PEPFAR Zambia has received over US$4 billion dollars (over K52 billion) in support of the HIV programme in Zambia.
PEPFAR Zambia has funded HIV testing services for more than 8.4 million Zambian citizens, supported more than 1.2 million voluntary medical male circumcisions, and provided support for almost 900,000 orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers.
PEPFAR Zambia currently supports more than 920,000 Zambians with life-saving antiretroviral therapy, if they continue to take their medicines can live long, healthy lives and prevent the spread of HIV.
Zambians should take advantage of the goodwill by the US government to fight HIV/AIDS with vigour.
Renewed funding means renewed confidence in the ability of the country to deliver on the 90-90-90 HIV epidemic control goal.
The announcement regarding the US$438 million for this year comes against the background of Zambia having an estimated 1,200,000 persons living with the HIV virus.
Of these, 1,080,000 are on ART. The balance of nearly 200,000 who are HIV positive don’t know their status and they are our primary target to find them and enrol them on ART.
Zambia has only 10 years to go to achieve the goal of ending AIDS as public health threat by 2020.
If the 200,000 plus people living with HIV still do not know their HIV status, this goal will remain a mere pipedream because new infections will continue.
It is said that HIV in one corner of the country is HIV everywhere.
The funding should be used to reach out to the 200,000 plus people living with HIV who do not know their HIV status.
To do so, there is need for innovation and support for initiatives to bring more, if not everyone, on board the 90-90- 90 objective.
Nobody should be left behind in the fight against HIV/AIDS.