Zimbabwe Leads Africa in HIV Response, Hosts Global AIDS Conference

The country has reached the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets and will host the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Harare.

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabwe is set to host the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA 2023) in Harare from December 4 to 9 this year, with more than 8,000 delegates from nearly 150 countries expected to attend. The conference, the largest and only bilingual AIDS event in Africa will provide a platform for sharing best practices, innovations, and challenges in the fight against the epidemic.

Zimbabwe has been praised for its remarkable progress in achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets, which aim to ensure that 95% of people living with HIV know their status, 95% of those who know their status are on treatment, and 95% of those on treatment have suppressed viral loads by 2025. According to the latest data from UNAIDS, Zimbabwe has already reached these targets, making it one of the five countries in Africa to do so. The country has also reduced new HIV infections by 49% and AIDS-related deaths by 56% since 2010.

Zimbabwe’s success is attributed to its home-grown domestic funding initiative, the National AIDS Trust Fund, which is financed by a 3% levy on formal sector salaries and has generated over US$ 1 billion since its inception in 1999. The fund has enabled the country to procure antiretroviral medicines, support prevention programs, and strengthen health systems. Zimbabwe also benefits from the support of international donors, such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR, and the availability of low-cost generic antiretroviral medicines from India.

The ICASA 2023 theme is “AIDS is not over. Address inequalities, accelerate inclusion and innovation”. The conference will highlight the need to address the social and legal barriers that hinder access to HIV services, especially for key populations and vulnerable groups. It will also explore integrating HIV services with other health and development programs, such as tuberculosis, sexual and reproductive health, and COVID-19. Furthermore, the conference will showcase how technology and innovation can enhance the quality and efficiency of HIV service delivery.

The conference will feature several high-level meetings, including a meeting of African Finance Ministers to discuss domestic funding models for HIV and a meeting of African First Ladies, chaired by Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, to focus on the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The conference will include plenary sessions, symposia, abstract presentations, exhibitions, and community dialogues.

The ICASA 2023 is expected to be a pivotal moment to spur stronger action and commitment to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Zimbabwe, as the host country and a leader in the HIV response, is ready to facilitate the conversations and collaborations that will shape the future of the global AIDS movement.

Source: The Herald


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