THE Government has managed to enrol more than 85 per cent of HIV-positive people that require treatment, on antiretroviral treatment (ART), according to latest figures from the Ministry of Health.
The figures which represent a significant stride in the fight against HIV and AIDS is drawn from the second quarter of 2012, while the latest figures which are set to reveal an increased number is set to be unveiled this year.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Reuben Mbewe said in response to a Press query that the country had done well in reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS through various interventions.
Zambia has won international recognition for its strides in the fight against HIV and AIDS with several intervention measures aimed at treating and reducing the prevalent rate among the people.
The country aspires to provide universal treatment access, so that ARV therapy is available to everyone who is clinically eligible.
"We have done very well as a country and more efforts are still being done. The current figures indicate that more than 85 per cent of the HI-positive clients in need of treatment are on ART," Dr Mbewe said.
"This figure is at second quarter of 2012 and it is a representation of around 455,000 (from the total number of people that require treatment) although the data is currently being updated."
The provision of antiretroviral therapy in Zambia started in 2002, although the Government struggled to make meaningful headways in putting more people on treatment largely because of the charges that were associated with it.
With the support from the Global Fund which committed US$254 million in 2004 for a five year period, as well as PWPFAR, the Government was able to introduce free antiretroviral treatment to those needing it.
Ministry of Health permanent Peter Mwaba said Zambia had worked hard amid various challenges to ensure that those that require treatment were able to access it.
Dr Mwaba said long distances to nearest health centres, especially in rural areas was still one of the major challenges that the Government was facing in ensuring that everyone in need of treatment was reached.
Dr Mwaba, however, noted that the country was far much ahead of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) target which compelled memberstates to ensure universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment for infected women, men, girls and boys by 2015.
The SADC Protocol also requires that by 2015, member countries should develop and implement policies to recognise the work of care givers, including the promotion of the involvement of men in the care and support of PLHIV.
Zambia on track with PMTCT of HIV
By MIRIAM ZIMBA
ZAMBIA has recorded an impressive success rate of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in 2012, a local non-governmental organisation Tiny Tim and Friends (TTF), has observed.
According to a statement issued by TTF which works with women in Lusaka townships, intensified programmes around voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), gave impetus to the success of PMTCT.
TTF director of programmes and operations Sarah Eldon said in addition to working with women in communities, her organisation is also working at establishing a centre for both children and adults.
"We take referrals from Government DHMT clinics and from our door-to-door outreach in community and we will also work with pregnant women for six months or longer if needed before referring them back to the public health system," she said.
Ms Eldon said TTF works with HIV positive women whose treatment is seemingly failing, in order to ensure they re-stabilise in their treatment regimes.
She disclosed that her organisation was elated at the success rate of PMTCT programmes it has embarked on in Lusaka.
"We are extremely proud of our successes as regards PMTCT in Lusaka. It is a vital step in wiping out transmission from mother to child and we would like to share our best practice with other organisations running similar projects, and we look forward to celebrating a day where no mother will transmit the HIV virus to her child", she said.
Ms Eldon said the current TTF PMTCT programme which has been operational in Zambia since 2011, encompasses the provision of dried blood spots (DBS) testing on infants through its Lusaka-based anti-retro viral therapy (ART), throughout Lusaka-based ART clinics.
She said on a weekly basis, the TTF women's group of volunteers conducts community-based HIV sensitisation campaigns aimed at encouraging pregnant women and mothers of infants to access VCT in various townships in Lusaka.
She said every Wednesday, pregnant women and mothers with infants come to the TTF centre to access PMTCT and DBS testing services, and that those who test positive for HIV, are initiated on ART, besides being offered counselling on treatment adherence, nutrition, and breastfeeding.
She said the PMTCT programme by her organisation is in line with the World health Organisation (WHO) recommended Option B, where all HIV positive pregnant women, regardless of their CD4 count, are started on ART.
She said her organisation has modified the Option B to what is called Option B+, which was started in Malawi where all HIV-positive women are maintained on ART as a life-long therapy.
Mwense DC bemoans ignorance on cancer
By BILKE MULENGA -
MWENSE District Commissioner Victor Kasuba has expressed concern over the lack of knowledge on cancer by most residents in the area, saying the situation has a negative impact on many communities in his district.
Mr Kasuba said despite the country recording an increase in the cases of cancer or cancer-related diseases, most of the people in his district had no knowledge of the disease.
He said because of lack of knowledge on the disease, many people ended up dying as they could not seek conventional treatment, but only opted to go for herbs, as they thought they were bewitched due to the strange ways the illnesses may have affected them.
Mr Kasuba observed in an interview in Mwense that, the reason why most people in his district were not aware of the disease was due to inadequate information being availed to them by the Government and stakeholders such as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that deal with health-related cases.
He said in the past, there were less cases of cancers and as a result, many people did not know it in remote areas, therefore, since now the disease was on the increase, there was need to sensitise the rural communities.
"I am very much concerned with the scanty knowledge that people here have on cancer diseases. I can tell you that only a few people are aware of prostate or cervical cancer, and I feel that its better for the Government or other stakeholders to start going round in places like ours and give our people information on the same," he said.
The DC said there was great need for the Government and other stakeholders to move in the district and schedule sensitisation programmes so that people could be aware of the disease.
He said if the Government and stakeholders had been visiting the needy areas such as Mwense , and create awareness among the people, it would be of great help as people would be having knowledge and start going for early check-ups for them to be diagnosed early. And if found with the disease be treated in early stages.
"Let me also appeal to the Ministry of Health to make a deliberate policy of going out in the rural communities like ours to go and do screening programmes and tell the people the importance of early detection of cancer," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Kasuba has called upon all residents in the district to maintain good standards of hygiene in their homes in an effort to avoid any outbreak out diarrhoel diseases such as cholera.
He said people should not forget what happened in the district a few months ago when there was an outbreak of cholera which claimed one life.