Zambia has adopted the World Health Organization’s guidelines to offer all people living with HIV antiretroviral treatment regardless of their CD4 count. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President of Zambia, made this announcement today at the launch of Zambia’s inaugural HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment Day in Lusaka. The day replaces the annual Voluntary Counselling and Testing Day which was commemorated between 2006 and 2016.
Of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in Zambia, 810 000 know their status and 800 000 are on antiretroviral treatment. While these numbers are encouraging, new HIV infections remain high at 59 000 in 2016. The move to HIV testing and treatment for all will ensure that Zambia increases access to people currently being left behind by the HIV response.
The new guidelines also include infant HIV testing at birth; use of routine viral load testing to monitor people on antiretroviral treatment; use of pre-exposure prophylaxis to people with substantial risk of acquiring HIV; and intensified screening for common co-morbidities and non-communicable diseases among people living with HIV.
“We will not wait for people to fall sick before they start life-saving treatment. Let’s take integrated health services, including HIV testing and treatment, to all the communities of Zambia.”
Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia
“When it comes to our youth, we need to differentiate between the moral question of whether they should be sexually active and the practical question of how to help them protect themselves if they are. Preventing access to HIV testing neither encourages nor discourages them from having sex. It just prevents them from protecting their health.”
Janet Rogan, UN Resident Coordinator
"It is vital that people who test HIV positive access treatment immediately, regardless of their CD4 count. While at the moment there is no cure for AIDS, science has provided us with ARVs that enable people living with HIV to lead a normal, long and healthy life.”
Medhin Tsehain, UNAIDS Country Director, Zambia