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People are Zambia’s vital asset – Foote

US AMBASSADOR Daniel Foote says every citizen must play a role to ensuring any person living with HIV easily accesses dignified quality care from where they work and live.

During the launch of the Mandevu Marketplace Community post in Lusaka, Ambassador Foote said Zambia’s most important asset was its people that should be protected as a national treasure.

He said he was certain that communities could make a difference if they were to get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“You have a role to play in ensuring that all Zambian people living with HIV receive easily accessible and dignified quality care right where they work and live,” he said. “At Mandevu marketplace/community post, anyone in this community can come and receive an HIV test. If someone is positive, then immediate treatment is available and viral load testing can assess that person’s response to HIV treatment.”

Ambassador Foote said through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) about one million Zambians were accessing lifesaving HIV treatment which allowed them to live longer and healthier lives.

“It is estimated that one out of four men and women in this community live with HIV and will benefit from HIV testing and treatment services. Our partner, Circle of Hope, provides this services to this community free of charge,” Ambassador Foote said.

“Please use this post. It is for you. Use it to find out your HIV status and tell your friends about it. If you are positive for HIV, get on treatment. If you remain on treatment and your virus is well-controlled, then you will not pass HIV on to your partner.”

Ministry of Health permanent secretary Kennedy Malama said HIV/AIDS remained a concern in Zambia.

He said there was need for the people living with HIV/AIDS to be protected from distress and disastrous cost of drugs.

“Don’t be cheated, HIV/AIDS remains a concern and we need to do what is right to protect our people from suffering catastrophic expenditure. Yes, indeed, in Zambia we have got 1.2 million people living with HIV. Out of that number a total of 1,070,000 are on treatment, that is unprecedented,” said Dr Malama.

Circle of Hope director Gibstar Makangila said the opening of community posts in markets have lessened the distance and barriers of transport costs when accessing HIV/AIDS services.

He said market place community posts model was the best for HIV/AIDS outreach programme which was being replicated locally and internationally.

Dr Makangila thanked the US government for supporting the project through PEPFAR.

“Circle of Hope was formed in the year 2005. And for 13 years we were only able to bring about 3,500 people on treatment for 13 years. In the last one year since we formulated the strategy of taking the services close to our people, we have been able to bring over 13,000 people in one year four months,” said Dr Makangila. “We wanted to overcome barrier number one which is stigma, especially among men. Men do not want to access treatment until they are completely finished in that sense. And so, because of that we knew that if we take services to where men work, live and socialise, they will be able to access the services at no major cost.”

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