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Zanzibar beating HIV global target of 90-90-90

MZEE Shoka tested HIV positive ten years ago.

He recalls humiliation and psychological torture caused by being discriminated against and subjected to stigma by family members and friends who sidelined him after learning he was positive.

He says counseling helped him overcome stress and started using Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART), observed health precautions and has successfully achieved maintaining viral suppression of HIV.

“I lived with stress for too long, was unhappy because of felling ill frequently. However, now I’m enjoying myself, doing a lot for my self and caring for my family including working on a small farm to grow some crops and keeping livestock without any health problem, Shoka said.

Shoka’s testimony, (41), is one of many HIV+ people living happily after successfully suppressing viral load through ARVs. This has enabled Z anz ibar to announce that it has been doing well in achieving the global target of ’90-90-90’ by next year.

While many countries are making strides gradually in the struggle to control the spread of HIV/AIDS it has moved an extra mile to beat the global target against the disease, following successful interventions in the past decade.

This year’s (2019) World AIDS Day was an opportunity for the authorities here to celebrate the success and talk on new strategy that will see it be among countries to control the spread of the disease by over 90 percent as soon as possible.

The 90–90–90 targets mean each country should have at least 90 percent HIV diagnosis; 90 percent of those diagnosed be using antiretroviral therapy (ART); and those being treated achieve viral suppression at 90 percent by 2020.

In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS) and partners launched the target. “We have already beaten the first two 90s target, and still struggling to achieve the third 90,” health authorities said.

The good news was highlighted at the event to mark the AIDS Day last Sunday in Pemba, by the deputy Minister of State-Second Vice- President’s Office Mr Mihayo Juma N’hunga who said there has been admirable success.

“We are happy that 93 percent of 6,991 people diagnosed know their status; and 98 percent of 6,371 of the HIV+ are using ART. But only 83 percent of them had achieved viral suppression by September this year,” he said at the colorful event.

Mr Mihayo said that though Z anz ibar has managed to maintain HIV prevalence at below one-percent in the past decade, concerted efforts with community commitment is still required to achieve ‘Z ero’ rate.

“All groups need to get involved along with increased public awareness are needed as far as curbing the disease is concerned,” Mihayo said in South Pemba region where the World AIDS Day 2019 was observed at national level.

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Communities make the difference,” and the deputy Minister stressed the need for collective actions involving family members, adults, women, youths, development partners and other stakeholders to achieve the global 90-90-90 targets by next year.

The Z anz ibar AIDS Commission (ZAC), board chairperson Dr Salhia Muhsin and Dr George Loy from the UN organisations also said that collaboration among stakeholders remain vital in controlling the spread of HIV and to achieve the global goal by 2030.

According to the ‘Tanzania Health Impact Survey 2016/17’ Zanzibar’s prevalence average rate is at 0.4 percent with Unguja Island leading with 0.5 percent and Pemba Island 0.2 percent. ZAC officer for public awareness Mr Sihaba Saadat Haji says that achieving the 90- 90-90 require concerted efforts also involving the media, and other stakeholders to discourage stigma and promoting use of ARV.

Haji said “We still need to educate people: People living with HIV, medical staffs, health officers, parents, and Journalists must work together to stop stigma, and any heartbreaking behaviour against people living with HIV.”

He said that it is possible for Zanzibar to reduce HIV prevalence to zero percent should all people play their part including promoting use of ARV as some people halt using ARV just because of stigma and discrimination.

Mr Haji said that it is recommended that people with HIV start ARV as soon as possible, and that all pregnant women with HIV should take HIV medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and it will also protect the health of the pregnant woman.

In strengthening public awareness, particularly in youths, Saadat said that during the 2019 AIDS Day, ZAC organised sports Bonanza, and road shows targeting key population to deliver the message about HIV and how they can avoid.

It is advised that all pregnant women with HIV should start taking HIV medicines as soon as possible during pregnancy, and women who are already taking HIV medicines when they become pregnant should continue taking HIV medicines throughout their pregnancies.

On every December 01, the WHO and UNAIDS salutes the achievements of activists and communities in the struggle against HIV, while the world remembers and honours all those whom we have lost along the way due to the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that communities are a unique force behind the success of the HIV response, and that of the 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018, about 79 percent received testing, 62 percent received treatment, and 53 percent had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with reduced risk of infecting others.

Some analysts argue that without drastic change, the world will see global HIV targets missed and a possible resurgence of the epidemic mainly among youths and key populations: People engaged in same sex, commercial sex workers and drugs users.

The key populations are less likely to access HIV services due to social stigma, discrimination, criminalization, and other barriers. These groups currently account for 47 percent of people with new infections, according to UNAIDS data.

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