ZIMBABWE currently has 1,188 million people on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), a Ministry of Health and Child Care official has said.
National ART Coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Chiedza Mupanguri, said the country was almost achieving epidemic control and was doing well in terms of HIV response.
“For 2021, for people living with HIV, who know their status, we are at 91,8 percent.
“Of those who know their status, 98,5 percent are on treatment and for those who are in treatment, 93,2 percent are virally suppressed,” she said.
Even though the country has been recording a number of new infections, especially among young girls and women, the Health Ministry has raised concern over the concentration of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and ART clients, in the 50 and above age range.
It has called for the integration of Hypertension, diabetes, cancers, among other NCDs, into the national HIV response.
Dr Mupanguri said HIV and AIDS are slowly becoming an ageing issue in Zimbabwe with indications that People Living with HIV (PLHIV) are those above the age of 50 and are at greater risk of developing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
“Many of our patients now are aging because of ARVs, we have less children on ART,” said Dr Mupanguri.
“Most of the patients are actually above 50, who are on ART, and so it means that we really need to look at issues such as diabetes, hypertension that affects the aged to integrate it with HIV because of this picture.
“According to experts, people with HIV are more likely to have type 2 diabetes and some HIV medicines may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in people with HIV.
“Most of our patients, who are on ART, are looking at the Primary Healthcare facility.
“Most of them, about 7,8 percent get their medications from the clinics.
“We have about 460 patients on third line antiretroviral medicines.”
She, however, added that children were lagging behind in terms of HIV treatment despite numerous efforts which have been put in place to initiate children on ART.
“In children, unfortunately, we have 74,8 percent of our children who know their status compared to adults who have 92,8 percent,” she said.
“We have children out there who have not gone for testing and who don’t know their status. Fortunately, of those who know their status, 100 percent are on treatment and 79,3 percent are virally suppressed.”
To improve uptake of ART by children, the Ministry Health, in collaboration with partners, has since rolled out child-friendly medicines for neonates and children such as Dolutegravir (DTG), which tastes better for children, and is taken once a day.
They are also doing IEC material in local languages to improve treatment literacy, as well training of healthcare workers, on the new medicines.
Zimbabwe commenced its ART program in 2004 with only 11 000 patients on ART.
When the ART programme started in 2004, only seven sites were giving treatment compared to the 1647 sites giving ARVs now.