Durban - Calls for better implementation of HIV/Aids framework from a political standpoint towards the global eradication of the virus were made on Wednesday at the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (Icasa), held at the ICC in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
With many countries around the world unable to meet the UNAids 90-90-90 target set out in 2016, Namibian health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said that the new global strategy needs to be implemented in every country.
The previous 90-90-90 target meant: 90% of people living with HIV must know their status, 90% who know their status to be on antiretroviral treatment and 90% on ARV treatment to achieve viral suppression.
Namibia is one of the few countries to have achieved said target, which is owed to the increased level of political commitment, Shangula said. He was speaking at a virtual address on Wednesday during a political declaration on Aids and how to accelerate implementation.
“Namibia was one of the countries to significantly reduce new HIV infections from about 11 000 in 2010 to about 5 500 last year, which is a reduction of almost 50%. This is a positive trend but not enough to end Aids.
“The new political declaration commits all countries to prioritise HIV prevention and to ensure that by 2025, 95% of people at risk of HIV infection have access to and use prevention options.
“Namibia is one of the few countries to achieve the 90-90-90 targets by 2020. This is a demonstration that even the most ambitious targets are achievable,” Shangula said.
Accounting for 20% of the global HIV burden and 30% of all new infections in 2019 in the Eastern and Southern African region, CEO of the South African National Aids Council (SANCA) Dr Thembisile Xulu said on Tuesday that the country had learnt valuable lessons from dealing with HIV, which were implemented during the recent pandemic.
Xulu said South Africa’s slow response in dealing with the HIV/Aids virus in the early 2000s, under the leadership of former President Thabo Mbeki, who sparked controversy for his stance towards the virus at the time, was a lesson well learnt.
“Because of HIV lessons, our initial response to Covid has been radically different from the early days of the HIV response. It is common knowledge that our initial response to HIV was slow, resulting in significant conflicts with civil society and a delay in the rollout of access to life-saving medication, until eight years later when there was decisive political leadership that resulted in the largest HIV treatment programme in the world.
“In contrast to the HIV response, the South Africa response to Covid-19 was swift and decisive, the political leadership, from the onset, acknowledged the seriousness of the disease and set in motion a whole government, whole society response where science was the hallmark of political decision-making and response,” Xulu said during a virtual address.
The number of patients paying cash for their ARV treatment has more than doubled between 2017 and 2020, according to the former acting CEO of Sanac, Coceka Nogoduka.
Around 183 195 individual patients paid in cash for their antiretrovirals (ARVs) between April 2017 and May 2021. Almost half of cash-paying patients were between the ages of 35-49.
“This represents a steady annual increase from 0.76% of people on ART in 2017 to 1.21% in 2020. Although this is a small percentage of the total treatment programme, it will make a substantial contribution to the treatment gap as the country closes in on targets,” she said.