Thursday, August 18, 2022

Aids war ‘gloom and hope’ ÔÇô NACA Coordinator

The coordinator of the National Aids Coordination Agency (NACA), Richard Matlhare, has described the country’s fight against AIDS/HIV as one of “gloom and hope”.

Speaking in an interview with Sunday Standard, Matlhare said that the war against the Aids pandemic is still far from over as there are still new infections, which he said is very worrying as there is no cure or vaccine for the disease.

He said that adult prevalence for people between 15-49 years is at 24, 8: only second to Swaziland, which stands at 25, 9 percent which he said is way far compared to Angola’s 2 percent and Madagascar’s o, 2.

Matlhare said this ”should worry us as a nation and calls for us to take responsibility for our sexual behavior and actions”.

Still on prevalence, Matlhare says that “it is known that prevalence rates are cumulative, especially that now people live longer but that rates are just too high and must worry us”.
He said the ray of hope is in the 15-19 years age group, where there are beginning to see a decrease from 6,5 to 3,7 whilst the 19-24 years group has also noted a decline.
These groups, the NACA coordinator says, “represents our window of hope for an AIDS Free Generation”.

On the aspect of prevention intervention, Matlhare said that they have “safe male circumcision”, which has the potential to reduce the rate of infection by up to 60 percent if implemented successfully and reaching a target of 80 percent of men in the five-year period they have set.
He said that the programme started at a slow pace with only 11,000 men circumcised to date but that they are stepping up the project and have already sent out campaign teams with support from partners, such as ACHAP and American President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief.

He pointed out that their hope is that the teams will increase the numbers of those circumcised.
Circumcision, he further explained, is an add-on strategy which must be complimented by measures such as consistent condom use and behavioral change campaigns.

On prevention efforts programmes, he said that they have recently launched a “wise up campaign” and a multi media behavioral campaign targeting adolescents through communication use of cell phone messages, Facebook, Twitter, radio and television.

Besides that he said that they have the Ministry of Education and Skills Development’s “Youth Counselling On Air” programme, which uses a call center to reach the youth.

He added that their success stories are, amongst others, on the country ‘s record on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, which he said has been hailed globally as the best practice as they have made major achievements in terms of access, testing pregnant mothers, HIV mothers taking prophlaxis and treatment.

As a result of those measures, he between 96 and 98 percent of babies born to HIV positive mothers are negative, a success rate that surpasses the global rate of 95.

Still on the positive side, he said is that the ARV programme is reaching 170,000 patients, almost all those in need of treatment.

He, however, pointed out that “this comes at a great and unsustainable cost hence the best choice is prevention to reduce the number of people being added to the list of those in the programme”.

He pointed out that the budget need for the Arv programme this year was P249 million but that due to budget constraints, they are operating with only P185,m.

The number of orphans, which currently stands at 44,000, he says, shows a decrease in deaths of patients, which is a sign that ARVs are effective as compared to the earlier days of the pandemic.
Lastly on the burning issues of provision of ARVs to foreigners, foreign inmates, foreign sex workers and the provision of condoms to prisoners, Matlhare said that intensive consultations are still ongoing and he hoped it will be presented to Parliament in October for debate.

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