Africa needs to fast track its efforts towards responding to HIV and Aids to meet the set global target of ending the pandemic by 2030, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said. Officially opening the 19th International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Harare yesterday, VP Mnangagwa said Africa had made tremendous progress in reducing the burden of HIV, but more still needed to be done to end Aids.
“ICASA 2015 provides us with a platform to share knowledge and strategise how Africa can end Aids by 2030,” VP Mnangagwa said. He said progress such as provision of antiretroviral drugs to people living with HIV, reducing the rate of HIV in adult population and reducing the number of children getting infected through mother-to-child transmission were commendable.
VP Mnangagwa applauded efforts by the HIV research community in coming up with a number of options for HIV treatment and care, which he said went a long way in mitigating the effects of HIV.
Citing an example of researchers working on treatment for HIV, VP Mnangagwa said their results had gone a long way in making treatment accessible and available to the generality of people living with HIV.
“We heard that it used to cost $15 000 to treat a single person from HIV, but now it costs only $100 and this is all due to continuous research efforts in finding affordable treatment for people living with HIV. This is really commendable,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa said while a lot of progress had been made in regressing HIV infection on the continent, Africa must not be complacent if it will end Aids by 2030. He commended Cuba, which is the only country that has so far managed to completely eradicate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and called upon all leaders on the continent to address irregularities inhibiting provision of treatment to children.
While Cuba has managed to completely eradicate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Zimbabwe has made tremendous progress towards the same goal, with the rate of infections through such transmission dropping from about 30 percent to seven percent.
VP Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe will continue to increase domestic funding towards health in line with the African Union’s declaration of channelling 15 percent of the national Budget towards health.
So far, Zimbabwe has managed to mobilise resources for HIV domestically through the National Aids Trust Fund popularly known as the Aids Levy, which most African countries have since emulated. Speaking at the same occasion, UNAIDS executive director Mr Michel Sidibe commended Zimbabwe for its progress in reducing the burden of HIV under very difficult conditions and also applauded the Aids Levy.
“We are here ( in Zimbabwe) because of your good results, which you have attained under very difficult conditions,” said Mr Sidibe. He said while a lot has been done to reduce costs of HIV treatment, there was need to produce the treatment at country level to further bring down the costs.
ICASA is the largest gathering on Aids and STIs and is held after every two years. About 5 000 delegates from 172 countries are attending the seven-day conference, which is running under the theme: “Aids in post 2015 era: linking leadership, science and human rights”.