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Hope for HIV cure on the horizon – TALC

THE Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign says hope is on the horizon as the narrative is now changing with talk of an HIV and AIDS cure agenda in the pipeline.

And TALC national coordinator Felix Mwanza says a lot of community work towards the AIDS response carried out by community based organisations and civil societies working in and around HIV and AIDS leaves much to be desired as most of them have either closed or on the verge of closing.

Commemorating the World AIDS day which fell on December 1 under the theme “Communities making a difference: Pressing Towards Ending AIDS”, Mwanza said as a result of past work in research and development and ongoing research to eliminate the HIV virus from the human body once and for all, stakeholders at global level were now confident of a cure for virus that causes AIDS.

“For all PLHIV, hope is on the horizon as the narrative is now changing with talks of an HIV and AIDS Cure agenda in the pipeline. As a result of past work in research and development and ongoing research to eliminate the HIV virus from the human body once and for all, stakeholders at the global level are now confident of a cure for HIV and AIDS. Therefore, all PLHIV should remain adherent on their current treatment regimens in order to benefit from the pending HIV and AIDS cure as they run the last mile in their crusade of defeating and conquering HIV and AIDS,” he said.

Mwanza said it was over three decades now and the population of those infected with HIV stands at over 37 million people globally.

“Out of this World demographic, Zambia’s statistical contribution is 1.2 million people living with HIV infection. However, the commemorating of WAD on the 3rd of December 2019 is rather strange. Zambia seems to have adopted her own days of observing World Global HIV response days away from our global partners as is the case also with HIV Testing Day whose date has been changed from June 30 of every year. We know that issues of logistics could be a challenge; however, arbitrary change in dates of the above events has potential to robe the hype, somberness and passion associated with these important days,” he said.

Mwanza said this year’s theme seemed to place the communities at the centre of the response vis-a-vis lack of investment for them to scale up their work in HIV testing, prevention, treatment, care and support is concerned.

“As we commemorate WAD this year, a lot of community work towards the AIDS response carried out by Community Based Organisations and Civil Societies working in and around HIV and AIDS leaves so much to be desired as most of them have either closed or on the verge of closing. Therefore, in reality this year’s theme though relevant at international and global level may not resonate well here in Zambia as the communities do not have the capacity to press towards ending AIDS,” he said.

Mwanza said as a community of people living with HIV infection, TALC was alive to the fact that “To Save Lives, HIV treatment alone is not enough!”

“However, Care and Support that will lead to one ‘Suppressing HIV’ is what matters. In moving forward, this is the knowledge that our communities need to be empowered with by investing in community based interventions to improve and sustain antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, virology suppression, and retention in care among HIV-infected individuals,” he said.

“This in turn will ultimately improve their quality of life. Added to this is stamping out stigma and discrimination of any form as the two vices continue to manifest at various levels of our society and remain huge barriers in accessing HIV and AIDS services throughout the globe, Zambia included. In fact, one can argue that both stigma and discrimination are now systemic, though the powers that be talk against the vices they actually do not walk their talk.”

Mwanza said this was further evidenced by the imbalance in resource allocation in Zambia’s HIV response that was 80 per cent supported by outsiders with the US-government through PEPFAR taking the larger share.

“Therefore, as we take moments to reflect on this year’s WAD, we should have it in mind that community-based programmes to promote HIV testing, retention in HIV care and/or ART adherence are important and we should explore sustainable approaches that could contribute significantly toward the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets and ultimately an AIDS-free generation,” said Mwanza.

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