“Another vital lesson we have learnt is that HIV/AIDS is a fast evolving phenomenon which requires change in processes with time, for instance the process has been on adolescent girls and young women for years as the most vulnerable to the threat of HIV/AIDS, while that still remains the same, it has now been established that men too as well as adolescent boys are vulnerable”
Justice Minister Given Lubinda said this when he officiated at the World AIDS Day celebrations commemorated under the theme, “Run the last mile, leaving no one behind”
Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) with support from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through its partnership with the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support Government’s efforts to provide high-quality, complementary, and integrated healthcare services.
Honourable Lubinda said, “ Men and young adolescent boys are vulnerable mainly because of poor health seeking behaviour and cultural barriers respectively. Male involvement in the HIV/AIDS response is imperative particularly given that they are the main decisions makers at all levels of society, On our part as Government, we continuously formulating strategies according to the specific needs of the target population group. For example some intervention designed for men include voluntary medical male circumcision and to a greater degree, HIV self-testing services which are accessed outside of health facilities”.
He added that’ “test and treat strategy that was introduced by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has reduced the time between test results and treatment initiation, however, the real game changer here is the elimination of stigma and discrimination. As long as people are afraid of loosing their job, friends their family due to their HIV status, we will not end the scourge. As much as there are 44,000 people in Zambia who acquire HIV every year, less than half that number die of AIDS related causes which means that treatment works. It prevents complications and allows persons living with HIV to live longer and healthy lives. I therefore, want to discourage people to avoid encouraging others from stopping ART in preference of miracles. We must not discourage people from accessing ART, hoping that only the power of prayer shall work”.
He said data remains key in ensuring that the HIV response is accurate, effective and efficient. “For this reason the strategic piece of data in policy making is paramount and this is the reason why the Government of the republic of Zambia together with UNAIDS and the United States Government has developed tool which collects real time data about HIV, TB and Malaria epidemic as well as indicators on maternal and reproductive health. Other measures aimed at sealing off occurrence of new HIV infections include the introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis for individuals pre- exposed to HIV infection and post exposure prophylaxis for those who have been accidentally exposed to HIV through work, gender based violence, rape or defilement.
And Lusaka Provincial Health Director, Dr Sofia Msiska said. “a huge task remains ahead of us to make sure we identify, encourage and prescribe treatment to use ART drugs available in all facilities. To ensure that we accomplish this task, the ministry of health is making sure that no one is left behind and this requires the coordination and synergies of working together with all the players that includes civil society organisations, the community, the corporate institutions, training institutions and the general population. So far we are gaining strides in the journey towards an AIDS free society by 2030. However, there are more people out there that are missing the opportunity to be diagnosed. Many people living with HIV still need to take that step to take the test for HIV and know their status”.