‘We need zero new HIV infections’

December 2, 2015, 4:53am

By Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter, the Herald

There is no need for people who are HIV negative to get infected as this represents failure of HIV interventions in place to save them, Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku, has said.

Speaking during the Zimbabwe World Aids Day commemorations held on the sidelines of the 18th International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (icasa), Minister Haufiku said HIV testing was paramount to ending Aids as it provided the foundation to other subsequent services such as treatment care and support.

He said interventions such as prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission of HIV should fully be implemented to ensure that no child born to an HIV positive mother gets infected.

“We have to close the tap of new infections. We need to reach out to all pregnant women, no child should be born with HIV. Surely there is no need for all those who are HIV negative to be positive as this represents failure of our programmes to save them,” said Minister Haufiku. Some of the prevention strategies are condom use, male circumcision, behaviour change and treatment as prevention.

Minister Haufiku commended the new World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on providing treatment to anyone who tests HIV positive regardless of their CD4 count and using treatment as prevention to vulnerable populations as a positive development in ending HIV infections.

He, however, said there was need for resources to ensure smooth implementation of these recommendations by countries particularly in developing economies. According to the United Nations, the world needs at least $31 billion to ensure that all countries provide ARVs to all people tested HIV positive and to make ARVs available as prevention to populations as risk of contracting HIV.

He said the zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero HIV deaths slogan can also be attained through leadership commitment. Speaking at the same occasion, the chairman for the Zimbabwe National Network for People living positive with HIV, Mr Sebastian Chinhaire, called for the development of drugs with lesser side effects to ensure treatment adherence.

“Some people taking ARVs are experiencing side effects, which therefore impacts negatively on adherence to treatment,” he said. This year’s World Aids Day ran under the theme: Getting to zero: Zero new infections, Zero Aids related deaths and Zero stigma.