Gender Gender

Youths should know their HIV status

Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
LAST Sunday marked 30 years since the first ever World AIDS Day was designated on December 1, 1988.
Prior to that, the day was organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, in 1996, a global world AIDS programme was made and a new organisation was formed under WHO to create and promote awareness about AIDS and HIV among people.
This year, the day was celebrated under the theme ‘Know Your Status’, the theme was apt because sub-Saharan Africa including Zambia, is where most young people and adolescents live.
As the future of any nation, it is imperative they know their HIV status so that they are linked to quality care or prevention services, whatever the case might be. Young people can only know their status by undergoing HIV testing which is essential for treatment and to ensure healthy and productive lives for those who test positive.
Currently, there are low rates of testing and treatment among adolescents and young people ages 15-24 which presents a challenge in controlling the spread of HIV. If this age group is not deliberately targeted, new infections are likely to increase, thereby negatively affecting health service delivery especially that it is estimated that by 2025, the youth population in Africa will be at 293 million.
To mitigate this, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and its partners in 2014 launched the 90-90-90 targets to empower people to make choices about HIV prevention as well as to protect themselves and others including those they love.
The 90-90-90 targets aim to diagnose 90 percent of people who are HIV positive by providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) to 90 percent of those diagnosed, and thereby achieve viral suppression for 90 percent of those on treatment by 2020.
Unfortunately, there are still several barriers to HIV testing such as stigma and discrimination while access to confidential testing is also of concern especially in public health institutions as a result, most people will only get tested when they get sick. At that point, some people are then too ill to make a complete recovery.
The 90-90-90 targets offers new ways to overcome some of the barriers such as self-testing, community-based testing and multi-disease testing to help people including young people know their HIV status in private. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, by knowing one’s HIV status it makes it easier to make informed decisions in terms of treatment or prevention.
Although great strides have been made in the management of HIV and fewer people are dying as long as they access and adhere to the treatment, it is critical to continue raising awareness on the need to knowing one’s status and for the removal of barriers to accessing HIV testing if the 90-90-90 targets are to be achieved by 2030 especially that there is still no known cure.
Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care.
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