HIV prevalence rate drops 15 percent

Owen Mugurungi

THE HIV prevalence rate in the country has dropped by 15 percent over the past 20 years, from 29% recorded in 1999 to the current 14.1% among the adult population.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care released the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment 2020 report (ZIMPHIA 2020) last week, which showed that the country has made great strides in the fight against HIV and reducing the prevalence of the virus as guided by recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

The Director of the Aids and TB Unit in the Health and Child Care Ministry, Dr Owen Mugurungi said Zimbabwe was very close to achieving its 90 / 90/ 90 goal of having 90 percent of the country’s population knowing their HIV status, 90 percent of those with HIV being on treatment and 90 percent of those on treatment having their viral load suppressed. 

“Zimbabwe has over the years recorded significant milestones in HIV programming. Our national prevalence rate has drastically come down from a high of 29% in 1999 to the current 14.1% amongst the adult population. This truly is remarkable progress and we owe it to ourselves and the hard work and dedication that we have produced over the years,” he said. 

Dr Mugurungi said the incidence rate, which is the number of new HIV infections, has gone down from 1.03% in 2010 to 0.42% in 2016. 

Zimbabwe is going through the second Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) after the first successful assessment held in 2015-2016. 

The first PHIA showed significant progress towards reaching the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020 and the global target to end Aids by 2030.

“I am delighted that as a country, we are going through our second Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) after the first successful assessment held in 2015/2016.  In life, it is generally always imperative to take a look in the ‘rear view mirror’ and see how far you have progressed and this is exactly what we are doing as a country – assessing the impact of our HIV prevention, care and treatment services,” Dr Mugurungi said.

He said according to the ZIMPHIA 2015-2016 survey results, in Zimbabwe, 77% of people living with HIV knew their status, 88% of those people were on treatment, and 85% of those people on treatment were virally suppressed.

He said despite the remarkable results indicating progress and achievements so far, the ministry could not afford to slow down or scale down its efforts.

The goal in ZIMPHIA 2020 is to examine the HIV situation by assessing the coverage and impact of HIV services at the population level and measuring the HIV-related risk behaviors using a nationally representative sample.

Dr Mugurungi said there was need to ensure that everyone rallied behind the project and supports all the different components of the assessment.

“We will be having our highly trained teams of professionals who will be visiting selected households carrying out the assessment. Our appeal as a Ministry is that our different community leaders and communities comply and support the work of these teams. 

“We have done our best so far to ensure that the teams will exercise the highest professional conduct as is possible and maintain professional standards of confidentiality,” he said. 

The Country Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Shirish Balachandra said Zimbabwe was to be applauded as it was approaching a global achievement of controlling HIV.

She emphasized that CDC was going to make rightful decisions to partner with ministries around the world and make a change to those who count on them.