First Lady calls for acceleration efforts to counter  HIV/AIDS in children

First Lady Mutinta Hichilema has called for an acceleration of efforts by stakeholders in order to end HIV/AIDS in children.

Mrs. Hichilema says Zambian is lagging behind in terms of providing HIV/AIDS curative services to children living with HIV/AIDS.

She is hopeful that the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Campaign initiative will bridge gaps where the country is lagging in providing curative services.

ZANIS reports that Mrs. Hichilema was speaking when she launched the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Campaign during the UNAIDS luncheon in Lusaka today.

The First Lady said she is concerned that HIV prevention in the country is lagging behind and has seen new infections adversely affecting adolescent girls and young women.

Mrs Hichilema said she is hopeful that the initiative will put children, adolescents and women at the centre of collaborative efforts aimed at eliminating the disease.

“HIV and AIDS affects every one of us. It is our duty to collectively speak about it to our families , friends and communities if we want to prevent the HIV epidemic from devastating us further” said Mrs Hichilema.

The First Lady commended the government for its commitment to join 12 priority countries as members of the Global Alliance for ending AIDS in Children.

And speaking at the same function, Minister of Health, Sylvia Masebo, said it was a scandal that not many children are on life saving antiretroviral drugs compared to adults.

She said it was not right that out of 80,000 children living with HIV/AIDS only 60 per cent are accessing lifesaving medication.

Ms Masebo said government remains committed to eliminating HIV/AIDS as a public health concern among children by 2030.

She said government and stakeholders will work to ensure that no child living with the pandemic is denied access to medication and other HIV/AIDS services.

The minister directed that goals of the HIV/AIDS initiative launched by the First Lady must be attained in the next one year.

Meanwhile, UNAIDS-Zambia Country Director, Tharcisse Barihuta, said there is a need to improve access to medicines and other HIV services among children.

Dr Barihuta however noted that tremendous progress has been recorded towards the fight in ending HIV /AIDS particularly on testing, adherence to antiretroviral treatment and maintaining viral suppression.

He said it is important that Zambia and stakeholders collaborate to stop HIV/AIDS in children by 2030.

UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Beatrice Mutali said the UN and Zambian government have agreed to invest in targeted programmes that will reduce inequalities that drive the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Ms Mutali said efforts will be made to prioritise people who are not accessing life saving HIV services to acquire them.

Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and PEPFAR representative Dr Megumi Itoh said the US government remains committed to supporting Zambia’s response to ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 especially in Children.

Dr Itoh said increased collaboration by CDC through PEPFAR will be undertaken in order to contribute to ending the epidemic through various targeted programmes.

And National Aids Council Chairperson, Connie Osborne, regretted that the country has seen an upsurge in AIDS infections, especially among adolescents in the country.

Dr Osborne said the country recorded 38,000 new HIV/AIDS infections in 2022 with 11,000 infections being among adolescents aged between 15 – 24.

She said the country’s population living with HIV/AIDS stood at 1.3 million people as of 2022.

Over 60 young people attended the launch of the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Campaign initiative .