Progress in AIDS fight despite corona

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Windhoek –Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states have made significant progress in advancing the fight against AIDS despite facing challenges from COVID-19.

This was said by the SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax while addressing ministers responsible for health from the region at a virtual conference this week.

“It is … encouraging to note that Eswatini, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have made tremendous progress in achieving the 90-90-90 Fast Track Targets by 2020, while more are working towards reaching this goal, according to the global AIDS report of 2020.

“Just to remind ourselves, the 90-90-90 Fast Track targets entail that by 2020, member states are to ensure that 90 percent of all people living with HIV know their HIV status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy have viral suppression,” she said.

Dr Tax said following the decision of the Council of Ministers in March 2020 for the Secretariat’s Technical Committee to urgently meet and provide advice on a co-ordinated regional approach in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, progress has been seen in most countries.

She said the bloc’s Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures had been harmonised at COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite level, to facilitate easier movement of goods, services and people in 27 countries.

According to Dr Tax, the effects of COVID-19 on efforts to contain HIV and AIDS and other public health concerns could not be underestimated.

“During the peak of COVID-19, and the implementation of drastic public health measures to contain its spread in most Member States, access to, and delivery of health care services was greatly affected. Among others, member states experienced great challenges in ensuring continued supply of essential drugs and medical commodities, in particular for antiretroviral therapy,” she said. 

Dr Tax said the achievements made by SADC members in combating AIDS was testimony to the region’s resilience and ability to address the challenges, especially when working in a co-ordinated manner.

“Let us not relax, as more still needs to be done in order to end the AIDS epidemic in our region. May I call upon member states to ensure an increased focus towards HIV prevention, while addressing the needs of the vulnerable and key populations who are still behind,” she said.

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