The rate of new HIV infections is not slowing down as it should and countries most affected like Zimbabwe would need to make greater strides in expanding access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) which is now the leading preventive method.
By Phyllis Mbanje
This was revealed in a new report from the Lancet Commission and the UNAIDS which warned that if new infections were not stopped, there was a risk the epidemic would rebound.
While unprecedented progress has been made to increase access to HIV treatment globally, the report shows that the rate of new HIV infections is not falling fast enough and will as a result increase the number of people needing ART treatment to stay alive.
Findings from the report indicate that sustaining current HIV treatment and prevention efforts would require up to 2% of gross domestic product, and at least a third of total government health expenditure, in the most affected African countries from 2014 to 2030 to fund HIV programmes.
Recently, Health minister David Parirenyatwa bemoaned the budget allocated to his ministry, saying it fell short of the Abuja Agreement which urged countries to increase funding to 15% of the total budget.
“We must face hard truths. If the current rate of new HIV infections continues merely sustaining the major efforts, we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from Aids increasing within five years in many countries,” said Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, co-chair of the Commission, and lead author of the report.
The executive director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibe said any delays would have catastrophic human and financial consequences.
“We have to act now. The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the Aids epidemic by 2030,” he said.
The report is critical to countries that have become complacent, highlighting that some countries with previously stable or declining HIV epidemics have shown trends of increasing risky sexual behaviours, among at-risk groups over the past five years, with new HIV infections on the rise.
This has been the case in Zimbabwe which despite the prevalence rate falling from an all high of 33% to around 14 %, there were still reports of risky sexual behaviour.