Acceleration towards the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets requires strategic efforts aimed at ensuring that everyone knows their HIV status, those found on HIV positive start treatment and those on treatment adhere to treatment and have their viral load suppressed.
In ensuring that no one remains behind in accessing HIV treatment services (HTS), the Zambian government through the Ministry of Health with support from the United States President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and U.S Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), developed a surge campaign, an initiative to accelerate towards the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets.
United States Embassy in Zambia Deputy Chief of Mission, Christopher Kraft said, “this launch marks the fifth surge with sister surges launched in Lusaka, Southern, Eastern and Western Provinces. The increasing momentum is inspiring and provides a strong foundation for the country to achieve its goal. I want to commend the government by embracing the surge campaign across the country. Together we need to identify 90% of people who are living with HIV in this province, from that group we need to get 90% of those people on treatment as quickly as possible and fully control HIV by 90% of these who are on treatment through suppression.
Science now shows that people who are on treatment with fully controlled virus cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners and children especially when diagnosed and placed on treatment before the virus completely destroys their immune system hence, the reason for this campaign.”
He added that “no longer should people continue to live with HIV unnecessarily or pass it on to their loved ones. While we celebrate Zambia’s progress towards the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets for epidemic control, we must be cognizant of the tremendous work that remains ahead. Here in Western Province, by the end of September 2018, approximately 41% or 63,600 people are living with HIV and are not accessing lifesaving treatment and that means people are still dying and passing the virus to their loved ones needlessly here.
“The surge campaign will focus on four districts, Sesheke, Mongu, Kalobo and Kaoma where more 90% of people not on treatment found in the four districts. To help the province reach the 16,600 people who are not on treatment, PEPFAR through CDC is providing US$4.7m in assistance to the western province health office and a similar amount of funding to our partners, Centre for Infectious Disease research in Zambia CIDRZ), the University of Maryland and the Colombia Universities International Center for HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment Programme which will provide treatment assistance to the province, and fill the gaps in service provision that the province is not currently able to provide.”
Zambian Government responding HIV Epidemic
And in launching the western province surge campaign, Vice President Inonge Wina who was represented by Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya said, “in 2016,Zambia recorded 47,000 new HIV infections with Western Province recording a significant increase in new infectious of 16% HIV infections. Today we are responding to this spike in HIV infections by launching the Western Province surge which basically means an acceleration of activities and strategies that will lead to saturation of preventive HIV services and treatment of HIV. The support that we have gotten from the American people and the government of America has changed lives in this country. From the year 2003 when we only had 3,500 people on ART, today we are in excess of 915,000 people on ART.
“As we speak today only 67% of people who live with HIV in the province know their status, 57% of those who are HIV positive are on treatment and 47% are virally suppressed. We need to sound the war drums and reverse this trend. We are committed as a country to the attainment of the 90:90:90 targets that requires that our strategies to identify people that are HIV positive is enhanced and this is why we need to shift from our facilities into the communities. We must have school health programmes escalated, strengthened partnerships with faith based organisations, enhanced community based outreaches and craft programmes to reach out to the transitioning people.”