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HIV test kit Credit: Getty Image


Aids claims 19 000 lives



A TOTAL of 19 566 people died of Aids in the country last year, marking a significant decline compared to the past three years as public health institutions continue implementing measures to end the pandemic by 2030.


According to statistics released by the National Aids Council (NAC) during a media workshop in Chinhoyi recently, last year’s figure is a decline from 2020 where the nation lost  23 427 lives to the pandemic.

In 2021, a rotal of 22 159 people died of Aids while in 2022 the number dropped to 21 286.
In total, as of the end of last year, a total of 1.3 million people were recorded as living with HIV. Of that figure, 520 720 are male and 782 585, female. A total of 82 711 of these are adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years.

In coming up with these figures, a national technical working group comprising individuals from the ministry of Health and Child Care, NAC and other stakeholders drives the process with guidance from the UNAIDS Estimates team.

The major driving factor for HIV cases has long been the rampant unsafe sexual intercourse occurring mainly in mining areas and places where there is lots of movement of people to neighbouring countries.

It is partly for these reasons that in terms of provinces, Matabeleland South, which has a lot of mining and transnational movements of people to South Africa, has the highest HIV prevalence in the country at 17.3% while Harare metropolitan province, with less of those activities, has the least, at 8.88%.

In the top four, after Matabeleland South, are Matabeleland North (14.43%) Bulawayo (11.75 %) and the Midlands (11.04%).

The bottom four provinces are Mashonaland East (9.83%), Masvingo (9.58%), Manicaland (9.35%) and Harare.

NAC chief executive officer Benard Madzima said HIV and Aids remain major challenges in Zimbabwe and even beyond.

“HIV and Aids remain major challenges affecting the globe and our sub-region, which bears 68% of the 37.7 million infected with HIV globally. Of these, Zimbabwe is home to an estimated 1.3 million people living with HIV (PLHIV).

“Our response has over the years reached key milestones such as reduction of the HIV incidence and prevalence as well as the expansion of the antiretroviral services and achievement of the 90-90-90 targets, which laid a strong foundation for the 95-95-95 targets which are already within our reach,” he said.

He indicated that he was convinced that the proper flow of information on HIV and Aids requires a mutual partnership between the media and his organisation.

“That partnership should facilitate deliberate sharing of information and accurate as well as responsible reporting, spurred by national interest and the pursuit of a development agenda anchored on the ideals of the National Development Strategy 1.

“This is motivated by our strong belief in the role of the media, which has already been instrumental in improving awareness and knowledge of our people of the HIV and Aids pandemic as well as the uptake of services,” he said.

Zimbabwe has recorded solid achievements in HIV and Aids prevention.

Three Zimbabweans last year were rewarded for putting together research abstracts on scientific ways that can turn around HIV prevention and treatment measures at the International Conference on Aids and Sexually Transmitted  Infections (STIs) in Africa (Icasa) held in Harare.

In August, other researchers combined with compatriots from Uganda and Zambia, to conduct research on HIV which found safer and effective options for second-line HIV treatment in children. 

The research was presented during the 12th International Aids Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2023) held in Brisbane.  

In coming up with the research findings, experts from Zimbabwe who joined their continental counterparts made all children randomised to take one of two NRTI [a class of antiretroviral drugs] backbone medicines. 

CD4 cell counts increased across all arms and there was no evidence of a difference according to either the NRTI or anchor regimen randomisation. 

The findings therefore highlighted the need to develop a child-friendly fixed-dose combination of tenofovir alafenamide fumarate and emtricitabine plus dolutegravir as an anchor medicine.

Alternatively, darunavir or atazanavir could be used as the anchor.

The research has since been shortlisted as one of the major five findings taken from across the globe.

The other four researchers presented the latest data on antiretrovirals, their side effects and how to best use them in medical care.

One study found that adherence counselling reversed viral rebound on dolutegravir in 95% of cases, meaning people did not need to switch treatment.

Two studies found that switching away from integrase inhibitors did not reverse weight gain, and instead, people who switched continued to gain weight at a similar rate to those who didn’t. One study looked at weight changes following a switch to a protease inhibitor-based regimen, the other following a switch to doravirine/islatravir. 

Researchers noted that in the future, managing weight gain could be very important for preventing metabolic disorders in people with HIV.

 This may include pharmaceutical interventions, but these are expensive, and studies looking at their effects on people living with HIV are needed.

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