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HIV deaths drop sharply


THE number of HIV-related deaths in the country has significantly declined from just under 160 000 in 2003 to less than 70 000 last year, Health and Child Care deputy minister Paul Chimedza said yesterday.


Chimedza was speaking at the launch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2013 guidelines for the use of antiretroviral medicines for treating and preventing HIV infection in Zimbabwe.

“The number of HIV-related deaths has . . . declined from
159 327 in 2003 to an estimated 63 736 deaths in 2012,” Chimedza said. “The country has made some significant progress in scaling up HIV prevention, care, treatment and support services through a multi-sectoral, comprehensive and public health approach. This has resulted in the reduction of the prevalence rate from 18% in 2005 to 15,01% for adults.”

He said through the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy, the ministry had managed to avert a total of 51 000 deaths among adults and children in 2012. Chimedza said the new guidelines for the use of antiretroviral medicines would be effected in January next year.

Under the new guidelines, the ministry will introduce early initiation of antiretroviral therapy to patients with a higher CD4 count.

CD4 count is a blood test to determine how well the immune system is working in people who have been diagnosed with HIV.

“The highlights of the new guidelines include early initiation of antiretroviral therapy at a higher CD4 count of 500, up from 350 or less. HIV-positive pregnant and lactating women will receive lifelong treatment regardless of CD4 count,” he said.

“All HIV-positive children under the age of 5 will also receive treatment regardless of CD4 count or clinical stage.”

WHO country representative David Okello said the implementation of the new guidelines would result in marked reduction in the number of annual deaths and new HIV infections.

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