ZAMBIA today joins the rest of the world in commemorating World AIDS Day which falls every December 1, with a call to have an AIDS-free generation where experts are optimistic of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.
This year’s celebration, whose theme is ‘Focus, partner and achieve: An AIDS-free generation’ is an opportunity to harness the power of social change to put people first and close the gap.
Ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 is possible, but only by closing the gap between people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and those who are being left behind.
Closing the gap means empowering and enabling all people, everywhere, to access the services they need.
UNAIDS estimates that by closing the HIV testing gap, 19 million people who are unaware of their HIV-positive status can begin to get support and that by closing the treatment gap, all 35 million people living with HIV will have access to life-saving medicine.
By closing the gap in access to medicines for children, all children living with HIV will be able to access treatment, not just the 24 per cent who have access today. By closing the access gap, all people can be included as part of the solution.
Therefore, the Government and its supporting partners should ensure that more people are tested through Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) to help avoid new infections and re-infections.
There is also need to ensure that all the health posts and centres that are being established have well-serviced Antiretroviral (ARV) therapies, especially in the rural areas in order to close up the gap.
ARV stock-outs should not be entertained if the target of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 is to be achieved.
More interventions like the door-to-door VCT campaign should be encouraged as opposed to where people are forced to queue up for these ART services at the healthcare facilities.
Confidentiality also needs to be emphasised especially among some health workers who are becoming overzealous by posting their experience with some patients on social media.
Relevant authorities should be proactive and monitor some of the postings on social media by some health workers which has been infringing on the confidentiality of the patients.
Such unethical behaviour has the potential to defeat the purpose of people going to seek ART services.
The social media could be an effective tool that should be used to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS and benefit the masses in meeting the target of having an HIV/AIDS-free generation.