Posted by Justin on August 20, 2017
President Lungu chats with Grace Chansa, the adolescent who moved a vote of thanks to his address

Republican President His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu has launched the National HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment (HTCT) Day making it possible for persons infected with HIV to be put on treatment immediately they know their HIV positive status. The HTCT Day launched on August 15 substitutes the National Voluntary HIV Counselling and Testing (VCT) Day which used to be commemorated on June 30.

The President said the shift from VCT to HTCT prioritized HIV testing and commencement and retention on anti-retroviral treatment of all Zambians living with HIV. The theme for the inaugural HTCT Day was; ‘HIV Test and Treat; Towards Ending AIDS.’

Immediate initiation to treatment of all persons infected by HIV is aimed at enabling Zambia achieve its goal of ending AIDS by 2030 through a 90, 90, 90 global fast-track campaign of ensuring that 90 per cent of persons living with HIV know their HIV status, 90 per cent of those who know their HIV status are enrolled on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and 90 per cent of people on ART achieve viral suppression.  

“Let’s not wait for people to fall sick before they can start life-saving treatment. Let’s take integrated health services including HIV testing and treatment to the communities,” President Lungu said.

Addressing thousands of community members and stakeholders offering a wide range of services at the Olympic Development Youth Centre in Lusaka, President Lungu expressed concern at the low HIV testing rates among Zambians especially the menfolk, saying the Ministry of Health should explore ways of making more men know their HIV status.

President Lungu announced that government had decided to make HIV testing available to anyone seeking health services so that as many people as possible benefit from the policy of instant commencement of treatment once they are diagnosed with HIV. He said it was disheartening to note that many people were not keen to know their HIV status when it was just the same as getting any other test like malaria.

Another concern raised by President Lungu is the rise in HIV infections among young people exacerbated by low uptake of HIV preventive interventions including testing services and poor adherence to treatment. President Lungu said other factors negatively affecting this age group of the less than 35 years olds is alcohol and substance abuse.

Speaking earlier, Minister of Health Dr Chilufya Chitalu praised President Lungu for providing the necessary political leadership to advance the anti AIDS agenda.

And United Nations Country Resident Coordinator in Zambia Ms Janet Rogan said evidence based and practical actions were needed to respond to the HIV threat. She expressed disapproval against persuading people on ART to quit treatment in preference for spiritual healing because the practice leads to high mortality.

The American Government pledged its continued support to the AIDS control in Zambia particularly through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) proramme.

And moving a vote of thanks to President Lungu’s HTCT Day launch, Ms Grace Chansa Chungu, representing young people, urged government to take more bold youth centered steps in preventing new HIV infections especially among girls who were four times at a higher risk of HIV infection than their male counterparts. 

Compiled by NAC Communications Unit.