A significant number of children aged 14 years and below contracted HIV sexually in 2016, latest information from the National Aids Council reveals.
It has also emerged that 63 903 children and 891 068 adults are on anti-retroviral therapy, a leap from the cumulative 665 299 recorded in 2015. Nac communications officer Mrs Tadiwa Nyatanga-Pfupa told The Sunday Mail that most of the children contracted the virus from their parents at conception and the remainder sexually.
Though further details on the latter group were not readily available, Mrs Nyatanga-Pfupa said the number of Art beneficiaries had increased sharply due to the Test and Treat Programme which strongly advocates early treatment regardless of one’s CD4 count.
CD4 count is a measure of one’s resistance to HIV.
Previously, only people with a CD4 count of 500 and below were initiated on Art.
Mrs Nyatanga-Pfupa said, “Most of the 63 903 children were born with HIV while the rest contracted the virus through being sexually active. These numbers have increased because of the Test and Treat Programme whereby anyone who tests HIV positive is enlisted for treatment regardless of their CD4 count.”
Secretary for Health and Child Care Brigadier-General (Retired) Dr Gerald Gwinji chipped in: “I cannot comment off hand on the children who contracted the virus sexually. . .However, the Test and Treat Programme is national in scope, and means the risk of one being tested and failing to show up for treatment is minimised.
“In turn, this reduces the need for us to follow up potential defaulters; so, it is a good move where we provide treatment after testing, and that has seen the number of people on Art increase. Everyone on Art is assured of treatment until end of year. We are working on another fund application to the Global Fund for medication that will sustain Art until 2020. Other financiers include partners and the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief.”
Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV and Aids advocacy and communications officer Mr Edmore Mutimodyo said: “The number of children on Art is evidence that their mothers did not enlist for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission Programme.
“Nowadays, it is possible for a child to be born HIV-free. We encourage mothers to register for PMTCT before their pregnancies are three months old.”
In 2015, the World Health Organisation set new HIV and Aids treatment and prevention guidelines to facilitate early interventions.
HIV remains a public health threat to Zimbabwe which has a 15 percent prevalence rate and an estimated 1, 2 million people living with the condition.