By FRANCINA PHIRI –
IF you like to pick up girls from the streets, there is more than 50 per cent chance that the squeeze you nuzzled up to last time from Addis Ababa road is HIV-positive.
According to information revealed yesterday, of the 18,000 sex workers in Zambia, 56.8 per cent of them are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The percentage is one of the highest in the region among prostitutes, it was revealed yesterday. Of concern is that only 18 per cent are currently on treatment.
The National AIDS Council (NAC) director policy and planning John Mwale said Zambia had about 18,000 sex workers and the HIV prevalence rate among them was 56.8 per cent, translating in about 10,080 of them living with the virus.
Dr Mwale told the National HIV Coalition meeting that 56.8 per cent was one of the highest prevalence rates in the region among sex workers.
He said the prevalence rate for sex workers was also high in comparison to other sections of society in Zambia as the national average was 11.6 per cent.
“Zambia has one of the highest prevalence rate among sex workers in the region and of the 18,000 sex workers only 18 per cent are receiving the HIV prevention and treatment medication,” Dr Mwale.
The encouraging development was sex workers beginning to practice safe sex by use of such devices as condoms, according to a recent survey. The result has been a drop in new infections.
Dr Mwale also said 3,825 people were enrolled on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) which was another key intervention in the fight against HIV pandemic.
Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said generally, 32,000 people across the country had been moved to Dolutegravir, the new type of drug that can suppress the Human Immune viral load within two weeks.
He said the transition process started in 2018 with the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka transitioning 8,000 people successfully out of the 9,000 that were on medication.
He said Zambia had recorded that 86 per cent of people living with HIV knew their status of which 84.2 per cent were on treatment.
“We have made incredible progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and Government has managed to transit over 32,000 patients to the new drug which would help prevent new infections,” he said.
Dr Chilufya said despite the significant progress made in the HIV prevention interventions, there was need to double prevention efforts in order to stay in line with the global commitments of ending AIDS as an epidemic by 2030.
Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary Mukuli Chikuba said Government would continue investing in the fight against HIV pandemic as it was a serious economic issue.