7 February 2013

Zambia: 'More Measures Needed to Fight HIV/Aids'

Photo: Carolyn Kruger/AED
Voluntary counseling and testing is used to combat HIV.

ZAMBIA needs more aggressive HIV/AIDS preventive measures to drive meaningful progress in the fight against the pandemic, Vice-President Guy Scott has said.

Dr Scott said it was an indisputable fact that more aggressive HIV prevention measures were needed and that Government was in a hurry to ensure that desired results were achieved.

The Vice-President was speaking yesterday when he launched the US$60 million worth Population Effects of Anti-retroviral Therapy to reduce HIV transmission (PopART).

This is a six-year community-based study which seeks to test whether providing a combination of HIV treatment and prevention interventions would better prevent the spread of the virus than the standard methods currently being offered.

PopART would benefit 21 communities, with nine from South Africa and 12 representing Zambia in four provinces.

The study is being funded by the Office of the United States Global AIDS Coordinator, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr Scott, in a speech read for him by Health Minister Joseph Kasonde, said the Ministry of Health was already exploring innovative ways of expanding testing and treatment services.

"If successful, the result from the PopART study would be highly beneficial for our people because Zambia is one of the countries devastated by the HIV epidemic for the last 25 years.

"An estimated 980,000 people are living with HIV and thousands of lives have already been lost to this disease," he said.

Dr Scott said PopART would help Government plan to accelerate preventive measures to reduce and control the spread of HIV.

US Ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella described PopART as one of the "truly cutting edge projects in fighting HIV and AIDS anywhere in the world."

Mr Storella named the "dream team" as comprising President Michael Sata, First Lady Christine Kaseba, Dr Scott, Dr Kasonde and Community Development, Mother and Child Health Minister Joseph Katema.

ZAMBART project coordinator Helen Ayles and PopART study manager Kwame Shanaube outlined the purpose of the study.

The ceremony was simultaneously being held in Zambia and South Africa and the beneficiary communities were randomly drawn via phone link between the two countries.

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