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UNAids goals too ambitious for Zimbabwe

AS Zimbabwe observed World Aids Day (December 1) the just- released UNAids set of global Aids treatment and prevention goals to be reached by 2030 have been described as an ambitious target difficult to meet for the country because of a deep resource gap at the global level.

Wongai Zhangazha

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) has announced that taking a fast-track approach over the next five years will allow the world to end the Aids epidemic by 2030.

The latest UNAIDS report Fast-Track: Ending the Aids epidemic by 2030 outlines that by taking the fast-track approach nearly 28 million new HIV infections and 21 million Aids-related deaths would be averted by 2030.

The new set of targets that would need to be reached by 2020 include achieving “90-90-90”, that is 90% of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status on treatment; and 90% of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads.

UNAids estimates that by June 2014, some 13,6 million people had access to antiretroviral therapy- a huge step towards ensuring that 15 million people have access by 2015, but still a long way off the 90-90-90 targets.

The report also includes other targets like reducing the annual number of new HIV infections by more than 75% to 500 000 in 2020, and achieving zero discrimination. However executive director of Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (Avac) Mitchell Warren said the targets seemed detached from the reality of HIV/Aids programming on the ground in hard-hit countries like Zimbabwe.

“The big-picture messages about what to aim for are right,” Warren said. “But the success or failure of efforts to break the Aids epidemic will be determined by the funding and the details — not just over the next five years, but over the next six months, 12 months and two years.

“We just can’t wait five years to see if the Aids response is on track. We need ambitious, yet feasible, short-term targets and strategies to be just as well-defined, and just as rigorous, as the longer-term goals that UNAids has worked to advance.”

Zimbabwe’s National Aids Council (NAC) communications officer Tadiwa Pfupa said the new set goals can only be achieved if there are enough resources.

“We are working flat out towards the achievement of those goals. Already we are working on zero new infections, that is through mother to child transmission programmes, voluntary male circumcision and working to ensure everyone is on treatment,” said Pfupa.

“As for the rise in STI infections, it could be the same people; usually you find that a number are repeat cases. However there is need to scale up on how to use condoms despite Zimbabweans recording a high uptake of this preventive measure.”

According to the Ministry of Health preliminary report of 2013 HIV estimates, the number of people dying from HIV and Aids-related illnesses significantly dropped from 170 000 in 2003 to about 60 000 last year.

The number of people living with HIV stands at 14,4 % while last year the prevalence rate was 14,5 percent. The number of people getting infected had also decreased from 1,18% in 2012 to 1,05% in 2013.

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