Zim HIV+ pregnant women number among world highest

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BY VARAIDZO MUDEWAIRI/CATHERINE MUCHIRI
ZIMBABWE has been ranked one of the 22 countries with the highest burden of pregnant women living with HIV.

This is despite the country having made major strides in testing and preventing the virus which caused havoc in the 1990s and early 2000s.

As a result, the Health ministry has introduced a programme to eliminate HIV transmission from positive mothers to children through medication.

Health and Child Care ministry director for the Aids and TB programme, Owen Mugurungi told NewsDay that the Health ministry is working on ensuring that HIV transmission from mothers to babies is eliminated.

“As a ministry we have an ambitious programme to eliminate mother to child HIV-transmission (EMTCT) from an HIV-positive woman to their babies. According to Zimphia (Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment) 2029 infection rates among women of reproductive  age  continue to decline  as  the rate of new  mother to child infections  have reduced from  0,5% in 2016 to 0,44% in 2020, and it further reduced to 8% from the 11% in 2010.  With the EMTCT programme, we aim to reduce it further from 8% to less than 5% by 2025”, Mugurungi said.

HIV infections among young women can also be reduced by making sure that all pregnant women have access to HIV testing to help detect the virus early and ensure that those who are infected have access to anti-retroviral drugs (ART).

Mugurungi said children born of HIV- positive women would receive diagnosis at birth  to determine whether  they acquired  HIV infection or not, and if they did, they were treated early.

“HIV programmes in the country receive a lot of support from government and global partners such as the Global Fund and the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), a United States programme,” Mugurungi added.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said:  “Policies, institutions  and programmes  are in place  to respond to these  prevention, treatment  and care needs, but the gap lies in resourcing  the level of scale  up needed  and investigating  ineffective additional  measures  to promote uptake  in vulnerable and marginalised groups. While access to paediatric drugs for treating children has improved, there are supplies and cost barriers still being experienced.”

Rusike said barriers to PMTCT were likely to affect rural, low-income populations in which service access is weaker and cost barriers are higher.

“We need to integrate equity into the allocation of Aids resources,” he further noted.

Meanwhile, statistics presented by the National Aids Council during the on-going Aids 2022 conference in Canada have revealed that
Zimbabwe has progressed in ending HIV/Aids.

NAC said: “The National treatments cascade for 95 95 95 targets by 2030 are 95% of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) should know their status, Zim is at 95,6 from 84,5 in 2018, 95% of PLHIV who know their status must be put on ART and Zimbabwe is at 95,6 from 77,5 in 2018 and 95% of people on ART must have their viral load suppressed and Zim stands at 93,2% from 66,9 in 2018.”

NAC also revealed that the impact of HIV programmes in 2021 showed that deaths averted by ART were 32 787, while infections averted by PMTCT were 11 822 and life years gained through ART and PMTCT were 955 546.

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