You are currently viewing Renewed HIV awareness a must
THE Zambian government is, therefore, being responsible by making such a bold step as this will invariably come with immense benefits for the nation.

Renewed HIV awareness a must

OVER the years, Zambia has made milestone strides in responding to HIV with annual infections across all ages declining from 60,000 in 2010 to 51,000 around 2019. According to UNAIDS, new infections among children aged below 14 waned from an estimated 10,000 to 6,000 over the same period. Deaths related to AIDS equally went down significantly from 24,000 to 19,000, a decline of about 30 percent. Notwithstanding this progress, the HIV burden has remained high and disproportionately affects females.  In 2019, for instance, there were 26,000 new HIV infections among women aged 15 and above, compared to 19,000 among males. The driver of new HIV infections has chiefly been unprotected heterosexual sex, with 90 percent of new infections recorded as a result of people not using condoms. Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces had the highest number of new infections with prevalence rates of 15.4 percent and 15.1 percent respectively, while Muchinga was the least burdened region with HIV prevalence rate of 5.4 percent. The gains the country has made in responding to HIV in the past may further be reversed with the latest revelation by the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. Yesterday, visiting United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima said efforts to prevent new infections in Zambia are not yielding positive results compared to treatment because most young people are indulging in unprotected sex. Ms Byanyima made the revelation when she paid a courtesy call on Lusaka Mayor Chilando Chitangala at her office. She said Zambia has made good progress in treating people infected with HIV, but that there is still a lot of work which has to be done to prevent new infections. “In the last 10 years, Zambia has been able to reduce new HIV infections. As at 2020, about 50,000 people tested positive for the virus, and that is too much. “There is progress but there is still a lot of work to do to protect girls and young women from being infected as they are among the most likely to be infected,” Ms Byanyima said. Truly, the HIV prevalence rate in Zambia is still way too high, and the most unfortunate situation is that it is mostly young people catching the virus due to their engagement in unprotected sex. Youths are engaging in unprotected sex despite Government and cooperating partners making both male and female condoms readily available in various outlets, including public places. The skyrocketing new infections in the country mean that Government is spending huge sums of money on procuring antiretroviral drugs to treat people getting infected with the incurable virus. This money could be spent on other needy areas like implementing the new dawn administration’s free education policy and purchasing other types of medicines and medical supplies. To evert the surging infections, Government and other stakeholders need to re-intensify sensitisation, particularly among youths, before the country starts losing the gains made in fighting the virus. Much as awareness on COVID-19 is important, stakeholders should not lose the grip on HIV and other ailments by focusing more on coronavirus at the expense of other diseases. Otherwise, Zambia may not attain its target in line with the UNAIDS “90-90-90” strategy. The “90-90-90” strategy calls for 90 percent of infected individuals to be diagnosed, 90 percent of whom should be on antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent should achieve sustained viral load suppression.  Although getting people treated for HIV suppresses the viral load, it is a costly undertaking to Government, the reason why the most effective way of ending the virus is prevention.