NAC encourages HIV re-tests


The National Aids Council (NAC) has called on people who have tested HIV positive, but not on anti-retroviral treatment to go for re-testing to enable them to access ARVs in accordance with new World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
Under the new guidelines, people living with HIV whose CD4 count falls below 350 should be placed on ARV treatment. Prior to this new dispensation, many people were placed on treatment only when their CD4 count fell below 200.
NAC spokesperson, Orirando Manwere said yesterday that the organisation was encouraging people to go for re-testing so that they may be put on ARV treatment.
“In line with the new WHO guidelines, we are conscientising people to go and get re-tested so that they go on the ARV programme. This is especially for those who have been tested before but could not be put on treatment because their CD4 count was above 200. It is important for those individuals to go and get re-tested so that they are immediately put on the programme,” he said.
Manwere said it was important for individuals who had never been tested to go for testing. “Individuals who have never been tested for HIV should also go and get tested so that if they test positive and their CD4 count is at 350, they can get treatment early,” he said.
Starting treatment at a CD4 cell count of 350 reduces the risk of HIV-related illnesses and some other serious diseases which affect the heart, kidney and liver, as well as some cancers. Manwere said the number of people on treatment would inevitably rise due to the new WHO guidelines.
Already, the number of people on treatment had risen from 340 000 to 570 000. There was also need for more CD4 count machines, he said.
Zimbabwe is set to receive a grant from the Global Fund under Round 10 of financing, which is expected to assist in coping with the increased number of people needing the life-prolonging drug.
There are an estimated 1,7 million people living with HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe where the prevalence rate is now 13,7 %; down from 14,1 % in 2008, according to latest government estimates.