Zambia records reduction in HIV infection rates

ZAMBIA has recorded a reduction in the rate of HIV infections in the past two decades, which has also seen an increase in the number of health facilities dispensing ARVs from 509 in 2011 to 564 in 2012.

According to the Revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework 2014-2016, over the last two decades, Zambia has recorded strides in halting and reversing the effects of the epidemic evidenced by statistics from the 2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS), Modes of Transmission (MOT) study, Health Management Information System (HMIS) and the Joint Mid-Term Review (JMTR.)

The findings, further show that there is a decrease in the incidence rate in adults (15+ years) from 1.6% (82, 000) in 2009 to 0.8% (46, 000) in 2012. The rate of infection in children (0–14 years old) has also dropped by up to 51% by 2012.

The number of health facilities dispensing ARVs in Zambia has increased from 509 in 2011 to 564 in 2012 and through the facilities, a total of 580, 118 children and adults are currerntly receiving antiretroviral therapy.

Meanwhile, former chairperson of the National AIDS Council (NAC) Bishop Joshua Banda has urged the new board members at the institution to increase local financing to support the AIDS response by fully utilizing the law which allows the institution to mobilise resources.

Bishop Banda’s observations come in the wake of the heavy external dependence syndrome of the national HIV response, which is reportedly about 86% with locally generated funds estimated at a paltry 14%.

He was speaking last week at Lusaka’s Southern Sun Hotel during the orientation meeting of new board members under the chairmanship of Dr George Tembo.

Bishop Banda commended Government for increasing its annual budgetary allocation to NAC in 2013 to nearly 200 per cent towards strengthening and sustaining its coordination role of the national AIDS agenda.

And UNAIDS country director Dr Medhin Tsehaiu told the orientation meeting that the focus areas of the Joint Programme of Support from 2016 to 2012 within the UN Sustainable Development Partnership Framework would be on strategic information to enhance expansion and strengthening the evidence base for HIV programming in Zambia.

The United States government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) tabulated some of the gains registered in Zambia through its support since 2004.

Global Fund liaison officer at the American Embassy Ms Bethany Baxter cited these successes as a drop in the rate of new HIV infections by 58 percent between 2001 and 2011; enrolment of more than 600,000 people on anti-retroviral treatment compared to only 3,500 in 2004, among others.

Meanwhile, Network of Zambian People Living with HIV and AIDS (NZP+) Executive Director Ms Eunice Sinyemu said civil society organisations were critical in the overall success of the HIV programmes especially from the demand creation side.

“Without a voice from civil society, many of the gains made in HIV response would not exist. Collective action and leadership exercised by CSOs is a demonstration of the power that CSO have in generating transformational change in the HIV response,” said Ms Sinyemu.