Increased targeted intervention in HIV
8 December 2016
INCREASED targeted intervention in HIV will help the country end the AIDS pandemic, a health official said.
National AIDS Council board chair, Dr Evaristo Marowa has called on the national programming to focus more on key populations so as to close the tap on new HIV infections.
“Zimbabwe has identified key populations, which include sex workers, prisoners, youths, long distance truck drivers and artisanal miners all who should be targeted together with those geographic areas with high HIV prevalence and incidence.
“Closing the tap of new HIV infections is possible! To make it possible, we have to scale up access to and utilisation of a combination of HIV prevention interventions targeted at the key populations,” he said.
Dr Marowa underscored the need to ensure that all the key populations access pre-exposure prophylaxis as the country adopts the latest World Health Organisation guidelines.
“This should include access to and utilisation of HIV testing services, condoms, and pre-exposure prophylaxis by sex workers and other key populations, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for girls and young women, prevention of mother to child transmission, with a key focus on Option B Plus and voluntary medical male circumcision for young men aged 15-29.
“These services, coupled with comprehensive information dissemination can also be custom made and combined for the general population,” he added.
Dr Marowa believes that the country can achieve more gains if the response is targeted rather than a generalised response.
“What is critical in this regard is that the response has to move away from a practice where the same interventions are targeted at everyone, to specifically targeted interventions for specific areas, sub groups and key populations.
“Included in this, is the need to maintain a combination prevention mix package that is tailored for specific groups, and backed by timely operational research and policy adjustments. Let me emphasise the need for use of evidence in targeting the areas that need the greatest attention,” he argued.
Although it is estimated that the number of people infected with HIV in the country this year will be around 42 000, a decline from 54 753 recorded in 2015, Dr Marowa argues that the figure remains extremely high hence the need to scale up HIV prevention interventions.
“Estimates suggest that 42,314 people will be infected with HIV in Zimbabwe this year! While this is a decline from the 54,753 people recorded in 2015, the number of new infections remains extremely high, bringing into key focus the need to scale up HIV prevention interventions.
“Hence the need to galvanise national attention and efforts to vigorously pursue HIV prevention, and deliver high impact services to people in specific locations and population sub groups that have high risk of transmission.”