US applauds major milestone in the fight against HIV/Aids
By Ambassador Brian A. Nichols
THE United States congratulates the people of Zimbabwe on the remarkable progress made in the response to HIV/Aids and celebrate the news that our collective work has put Zimbabwe on the path to achieving epidemic control.
On World Aids Day today, results released from the second Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey (ZIMPHIA 2020) demonstrated the nation’s continued progress towards achieving UNAIDS’ global targets.
The US-funded and government of Zimbabwe-led survey provided critical information on the status of the national HIV response.
The survey found that HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe – one of the hardest hit countries in the world – has declined to 12.9 percent from a high of 29 percent in 1999.
Remarkably, the ZIMPHIA also demonstrated that over three quarters of adults living with HIV (77.3 percent) have achieved viral load suppression, meaning they cannot sexually transmit the virus to their partners – a major milestone in bringing the infection under control.
If Zimbabwe continues to support and expand HIV diagnosis and life-saving antiretroviral treatment, the survey report noted, it can achieve the UNAIDS Fast-Track goal of ending the Aids epidemic by 2030.
We salute Zimbabwe’s health workers, local communities, implementing partners and brave people living with HIV for their achievements in the fight against HIV/Aids in the face of great odds.
People like 62-year-old Samson Chiremwe, who was diagnosed with HIV 10 years ago and has made it his personal mission to counsel other men to know their status and start treatment because it has worked so well for him.
And women like Viola Tenjani, a 58-year-old grandmother who credits treatment for her ability to continue caring for her three grandchildren.
Strong collaboration between America’s PEPFAR programme and the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the National Aids Council, our implementing partners, the Global Fund, UNAIDS and other multilateral health development partners make such achievements possible.
Perhaps even more importantly, civil society organisations and individuals who have actively fought for many years for inclusion in the HIV response, also enabled the successes from the survey.
However, while we celebrate the ZIMPHIA results, we must also pause and note the substantial work ahead of us. Despite all that we have accomplished and all that we now know about this disease, more than 31 000 Zimbabweans became newly infected with HIV in 2020.
Key gaps in HIV prevention and treatment programming remain, including for younger people and key populations. We cannot afford to rest or become complacent.
Ultimately, the path to epidemic control requires a shift in mindset towards sustainable HIV/Aids programmes, a renewed focus on prevention, and a shift to more tightly focused programmes such as those targeting adolescent girls and young women, men who have sex with men, and other key populations.
The US government has pledged continued support of the people of Zimbabwe’s HIV response and committed US$230.3 million this year to maintain these achievements through a comprehensive package of prevention, treatment, and support services. Cumulatively, PEPFAR investments in Zimbabwe since 2006 amount to over US$1.3 billion dollars.
Seventeen years ago, when PEPFAR began, HIV was a death sentence in Zimbabwe and many other parts of the world. Now, for the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to control a pandemic without a vaccine or a cure.
As we commemorate World Aids Day 2020, I reiterate America’s unwavering support for the more than 1.3 million Zimbabweans living with HIV.
We should also remember the many friends and loved ones we have lost over the past 40 years. As we honour their legacy, let us continue to work together to achieve the ultimate goal of ending Aids.
Brian A. Nichols is United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe.