Keep HIV on national agenda

Catherine Murombedzi Health correspondent

The media’s role in the HIV fight remains important. It is the voice and link of the policy makers, the scientific world, activists and the community living with HIV. It is the cog in the wheel and drives both impact and outcome.

More still needs to be done if the world is to see the fighting in ending Aids won.

At the recently ended Aids Conference in Amsterdam, Holland alarm bells have been sounded.

Nigeria and 51 other countries are recording a growth in new HIV infections.

At a time the International AIDS society has issued a warning that reaching the target to ending Aids by 2030 hangs in the limbo Zimbabwe has made progress in reducing new HIV infections. However, no country is an island and this achievement can not be celebrated if the region and the global trends are not in unison. Southern Africa remains burdened with new HIV infections. Tuberculosis and malaria are still a challenge for the region too.

At a recent meeting the National AIDS Council media representative, Tariro Makanga speaking in Harare, said the media needs to keep HIV/AIDS on the national agenda.

“HIV incidence has fallen from 0.88% in 2011 to 0.48% in 2016, while prevalence has also declined from over 29% in 1999 to 14% in 2016. At the same time, the number of people accessing treatment has gone above 1.2 million. Zimbabwe has 1.3 million people living with HIV,” said Makanga.

“I therefore believe that we are on course to meet the 90-90-90 targets by 2020 and end the pandemic by 2030.

But to finish the course, we need a paradigm shift towards a business unusual approach. Our people, both at community and stakeholder level are becoming complacent given the successes we have recorded. As a result there is a real danger of a spike in new infections particularly among most at risk and key populations including adolescent girls and young women, sex workers, small scale miners and others,” she said.

“The media should therefore remain vigilant focused and continue to scale up mobilisation of communities to access and utilise HIV and AIDS services. The focus of our response should always be anchored, as the Minister of Health and Child Care would always say, on prevention as the first strategy, prevention as the second strategy and prevention as the third strategy,” she added.

Makanga bemoaned the new scourge of cancers which now are affecting people living with HIV more.

“While HIV has been contained to an extent, it is the rising cases of cancer that are now more worrying, signifying a need for increased attention. In this regard, I would like to encourage the media to once again rise to the occasion and scale up reportage on cancer and other non-communicable diseases such as kidney infections, heart and others ailments, which are becoming prevalent as people living with HIV are now living longer.

The National AIDS Council last year availed $1,8million to cancer treatment.

Cancer can be treated if diagnosed early.

Women aged 40 and above are urged to be screened for breast and cervical cancer every three years.

For women living with HIV the screening is annually.

However, the majority of women have not done so.

Cancer is usually detected when one is already ill and this being in the second, third or fourth stages.

Most cancers are a result of lifestyles and diet and can be minimised if people followed a strict diet.