Catherine Murombedzi Health Correspondent
There is still information gap concerning the passing on of the HIV virus today. A person who is on medication and has treatment working well sees the HIV virus getting suppressed to undetectable levels. When the virus is less than 100ml copies per gram, it becomes undetectable.
A person with a suppressed viral load no longer passes the HIV virus. This only happens when the person continues taking medication as prescribed. So a virally suppressed person can take an HIV test and test HIV negative. However, this is a false negative as the virus remains in the blood in so little amounts that it can no longer be detected by a normal rapid HIV test.
There are times that a person on medication, religiously taking anti-retroviral therapy sees the virus mutating. This is due to the virus growing resistance to that particular medication used. When this occurs, the person has to be moved to a stronger regimen. If one was on line one, they get moved to line 2.
The objective of the anti-retroviral therapy (ART) programme is to reduce morbidity and mortality due to AIDS-deaths through provision of anti HIV medication.
To align treatment strategies to achieve the 90-90-90 targets set by the World Heath Organisation (WHO) in 2015 Zimbabwe has adopted viral load monitoring and is in the process of rolling out and equipping health facilities.
With 2030 in mind, the 90-90-90 is an ambitious programme to have 90 percent of any country population tested for HIV. The second 90 means 90 percent of the tested people who need ART receive the required medication.
The last 90 means that the people on medication must record 90 percent viral suppression leading to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
In Zimbabwe, 74,2 percent of PLHIV ages 15 to 64 years report knowing their HIV status. Among PLHIV ages 15 to 64 years who know their HIV status, 86,8 percent are currently on ART. In 2015, a total of 879 000 were on ART increasing to 940 000 in 2016.
The domestic funding which is the AIDS Levy supports a total number standing at 232 000. The rest of people receiving ART are supported by the Global Fund, Pepfar and other important support systems. There is however, need to have more people supported by the domestic fund if peace of mind is to be achieved.
My concern however, lies in the information gap where I have seen dramas stressing the need to get tested. My feeling is that, being honest, faithful and being open about one’s HIV status is of importance.
Since virally suppressed means no infection, drams must now focus on that.
There are newspaper columns where people send contacts requesting to get linked with an HIV negative person. The language used is rather crude; Ndoda asina chirwere (I need a partner who is HIV negative)
For most people who may think they are HIV negative, they just have not been tested. For the virally suppressed, they need to be open that they are on medication.
As a country, Zimbabwe needs to uphold prevention as the cornerstone of success to ending AIDS.
Those on anti-HIV treatment and still not undetected must also strive to get viral load suppression. This is achieved if medication is working well, the person taking the medication has 100 percent adherence and reports early to the health centre if they experience any side effects or an anomaly in their day-to-day living.
With prevention remaining the cornerstone, HIV suppression and being faithful ending AIDS could be on the horizon.