Zim Edges Close to WHO HIV Validation. 23/7/2017
Published by SUNDAYNEWS
Dr Angela Mushavi
Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWE has made significant strides in the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (EMTCT), with the country edging close to attaining World Health Organisation (WHO) validation on the same, an official has revealed.
Cuba was the first country to receive WHO validation on EMTCT in 2015. The WHO validation criteria include the 95-95-95 Global Plan targets to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT) by 2030. Under the global targets countries should ensure that more than 95 percent of pregnant women, both who know and do not know their HIV status, receive at least one antenatal visit. More than 95 percent of pregnant women should know their HIV status and more than 95 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women must receive antiretroviral drugs, by 2030.
Another target of the Global Plan is to reduce the mother-to-child-transmission of HIV (MTCT) rate to below five percent by 2030. Co-ordinator of the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission programme in Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Angela Mushavi last week revealed that the country had so far managed to reduced its MTCT rate to 5,2 percent, just 0,2 percent short of the global target.
She was speaking at a two-day Southern Africa Aids Dissemination Service (SAfAids) symposium on Gender Norms Transformation in Harare last week. On the 95-95-95 targets, Dr Mushavi said the country had attained 93 percent on the all the three targets and needed to abandon the business-as-usual approach to get to the required 95 percent.
“Our PMTCT rate is at 5,2 percent and we aim for less than that. On the 95-95-95 target we are at 93 percent and we want to push to get to 95 percent. We can’t do so by building more clinics, neither can we do it alone. We need to do things differently if we are to achieve the set targets. Cuba met the target and we have to do it,” she said.
Dr Mushavi pointed out lack of male participation in the PMTCT programme as one of the major factors that were militating against attainment of the set targets. She said the country was lacking on human rights, gender equality and community engagement, one of the tools applied in the assessment of the global validation of EMTCT.
“We need to engage men, increase their participation for us to leap to 95 percent. We are just 2 percent short. The male gender is very important to our efforts in eliminating MTCT. Some of the validation tools on the WHO checklist are the human rights, gender, equality and community engagement, where as a country we need to really work on,” she said.
Dr Mushavi revealed that in 2013, only 17 percent of male partners participated in the PMTCT programme with the figure going up to 23 percent in 2016. She said the six percent improvement in three years was not enough and more needed to be done to increase male participation. Dr Mushavi also pointed out the need to increase the percentage of women who deliver in health institutions for the country to attain the Global plan targets.
“About 93 percent of pregnant women book for Antenatal Care (ANC) but only 20 percent do so in the first three months of pregnancy. Statistics also show that 80 percent of women deliver in health institutions. If we are to successfully eliminate MTCT we need to improve on those figures,” she said.
Delegates attending the symposium which ended on Thursday last week commended Zimbabwe for the successes that had been recorded in the PMTCT programme. They called on the country to fight gender inequality and improve male participation in PMTCT as a way of achieving the set targets.
Successes recorded on PMTCT come on the back of broader strides made by Zimbabwe in the fight against HIV which have thrust the country into a leading the East and Southern Africa (ESA) regional HIV prevention agenda. The country, whose HIV programming emphasises on prevention, is also expected to lead the global agenda in HIV prevention.