Road to Zero: Africa’s HIV scorecard takes shape as Botswana, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe lead race

BONFACE ORUCHO, BIRD STORY AGENCY.

ZIMBABWE, through the country’s state news agency, New Ziana, recently revealed it had hit and surpassed 95% diagnosis, 95% treatment and 95% viral suppression targets set by the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) for 2025.

Dr Chiedza Mupanguri, an official from the country’s Ministry of Health and Child care, presented the preliminary data for Zimbabwe at the Media Engagement Workshop in Chinhoyi.

He noted that Zimbabwe had “met the viral suppression target in the UNAIDS 95-95-95 target and is one of the highest reported levels of population viral suppression globally.”

Further in her submission, Mupanguri indicated that the latest ministry data shows that the country’s 1.3 million HIV-positive people reflect 96% of total diagnoses, while those on treatment were 97%.

Set in 2020, the UNAIDS 95-95-95 goals aim for 95% of those living with HIV in UN member states to know their status, 95% of those who know their status to be on treatment, and 95% of those on treatment to be virally suppressed.

Zimbabwe’s present achievements are a critical indicator of the progress the south African country has made in managing the disease. Having met the 95-95-95 targets, it is well-positioned to utilise existing programs to meet the UNAIDS target of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

One of the most prominent of these existing programs is the recent approval of an injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA), an HIV-preventive drug.

In October 2022, Zimbabwe became the first country in the continent and the third in the world after the US and Australia to approve the usage of the drug recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Health Organization justifies its recommendation for countries to use cabotegravir (CAB-LA), stating “two large studies showed that CAB-LA injections every 2 months were safe, well-tolerated, and highly effective in reducing the risk of HIV acquisition”, especially for individuals who are at the risk of infection.

Besides Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Botswana have also achieved the 2025 UNAIDS targets.

In September 2022, Eswatini announced the results of the 2021 Eswatini Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey, SHIMS3, a household-level survey intended to measure HIV incidence and viral load suppression in the country.

“94 per cent of adults 15 years and older living with HIV are aware of their status, 97 per cent of those aware of their status are on antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 96 per cent of those on ART have achieved viral suppression.”

While Eswatini fell short of meeting 95% diagnosis, its impressive achievements in treatment and viral suppression make it stand out among the countries that could hit UNAIDS targets before 2025. Overall, women achieved 95–98–96, while men reached 92-96-97.

Relatively, Botswana, a country with one of the highest HIV incidence rates in the world — one in five people in Botswana lives with the virus according to Unaids — in July 2022 also announced it had hit Unaids 95-95-95 targets.

Data from UNAIDS indicates that people living with HIV in Botswana were 360 000 in 2021, 94% of whom were diagnosed, 92% on a treatment plan and 90% with suppressed viral loads.

However, in study findings released in July 2022, the figures had improved to hit 95-98-98 in diagnosis, treatment and viral suppression.

Other countries on track to meet the 95-95-95 target include Cabo Verde, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda.






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