As people with HIV in Zambia are now living longer and healthier lives, the focus is shifting to young people and the opportunity to work towards an AIDS-free generation.
Greenford Sibusenga, a senior clinical care specialist, says mortality rates due to AIDS have reduced in Livingstone drastically since 2004 due to effective treatment, prevention and counselling.
Sibusenga, who is based at the Livingstone District Community Medical Office, was speaking at the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) about a recent initiative to re-introduce youth-friendly corners in health centres, aimed at dealing with youth sexual and reproductive health, including HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care.
Protecting Zambia's future
Sibusenga said: "HIV among youths is a risk to Zambia's development and also a burden to the economy and national security.
"Now we have people living with HIV and rarely dying from AIDS-related opportunistic infections. They are able to live longer, take care of their families and contribute to the development of their families and the burden on the health system has actually reduced.
"At one time 83 per cent of bedridden patients in hospital were living with HIV but now the wards are not congested, if we have managed to stabilize the situation like this, now let us target the future, the children and youths. The burden of the economy, national security and all that goes into the nation lies with the youth."
Young people and sexual health
Karin Perl, GIZ HIV programme coordinator, said: "In the last Zambia-German negotiations, it was decided to grow the HIV mainstreaming and to support projects in Livingstone feeding into the National AIDS Councils prevention and impact mitigation strategy."
She added that the project in Livingstone plans to reach around 20,000 people, aged 15-49, with behaviour change communications methods.
Sibu Malambo, Contact Trust Youth Association programmes director, said young people face problems accessing sexual and reproductive health services which posed a challenge in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The youth-friendly corners help address this by providing an easier entry point, especially in congested clinics.
"Sexual and reproductive health is much linked to HIV prevention. So we believe this is a step in the right direction in responding to the window of hope for the youths," Malambo said.