THE MINISTRY of Health has replaced the National HIV Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) with HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment (HTCT) day on its calendar of events to be commemorated every year.
HIV Testing, Counseling and Treatment is now compulsory in Zambia; that is the official policy and there is no debate about it. The Republican President Edgar Lungu has announced at inaugural HIV Testing Counseling & Treatment Day commemoration under the theme “Test and Treat: Towards Ending AIDS”.
And Heath Minister Dr Chitalu Malama said, the shift from VCT to HTCT was to forge a linkage between HIV testing and treatment as part of the fast-track crusade to end AIDS by 2030, and it is aimed at initiating persons living with HIV on anti-retroviral therapy upon diagnosis of the infection.
Dr Malama said, the new approach of offering treatment and care to persons infected with HIV immediately after diagnosis, allows Zambia to pursue the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) led 90, 90, 90 campaign.
“This campaign is translated as 90 percent of persons living with HIV knowing their HIV status, 90 per cent of persons who test positive for HIV start on treatment and 90 per cent of those on treatment achieve viral load suppression to undetectable levels.
“The 90, 90, 90 targets were made through a United Nations General Assembly High Political level Declaration in 2011 to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” said Dr Malama.
And Dr Malama said, the policy of offering treatment to everyone diagnosed with HIV provided three major benefit which include, raising the quality of lives, forestalling progression of individuals from their HIV positive status to AIDS stage and averting new HIV infections through viral suppression as well as prompt treatment of HIV restores individuals’ immune system.