By Ashok Ramsarup :: The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) project in Eshowe, near Zululand on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast in South Africa, has reached the 90-90-90 target set by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2014. The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has released the details whilst the 9th SA Aids Conference 2019 is underway at the International Convention Centre in the port city of Durban.
MSF made the findings from a follow-up survey of its community-based HIV/TB project in Eshowe ahead of the 2020 deadline. The surveys show that the project has achieved the UNAIDS targets of 90-90-90 that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 94% of those were on antiretroviral treatment and 95% of those had a suppressed viral load.
The results support MSF’s view that interventions at the community level can successfully reach and directly support more people living with HIV who do not access conventional health services, which is key to the prevention of the HIV epidemic.
The results from several other HIV population surveys, including two surveys released at SA AIDS this week, the MSF results provide strong evidence that achieving the 90-90-90 targets was possible in South Africa, along with hopeful data suggesting that the number of new infections was decreasing in certain areas.
The MSF said: “The 90-90-90 target is an important indicator of the success of a country’s HIV response. We’ve shown that it’s possible to reach 90-90-90 in an area with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the country, where one in four people is living with HIV. “
Dr Liesbet Ohler, Project Medical Referent, Eshowe, said the latest results were a testament to the full engagement of the entire community as everyone – from local civil society and patient groups, health staff and traditional health practitioners, traditional leaders and their members – was deeply involved in designing and helping this project to deliver from day one.
Dr Ohler said: “Importantly, we have ensured 94% of people who tested HIV positive started treatment, including people who are much less likely to test for HIV and link to care, such as men.”
The MSF said the survey, which included 3,286 people aged 15 to 59 years, was a follow-up to a 2013 assessment. Last year the survey found a significant increase in overall HIV status awareness – a 14 per cent increase and in starting people on treatment rose by 24% between 2013 and 2018.
South African Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said the prevalence of HIV among South Africans rose to 13.1 per cent. In his releasing the Maluleke said: “People living with HIV last year estimated to be sitting at 7.52 million, but they were living a lot more healthier.
Maluleke had indicated that there were new infections but were living a lot healthier with the availability of antiretroviral (ARV). He added the concerning factor was that HIV prevalence among teenagers and adults aged between 15 and 49 was increasing.
Meanwhile, the statistics from the Government of India’s Health Management Information System (HMIS) has shown that 11% increase in HIV-related deaths in the State of Maharashtra in 2018-19 and nearly 94% of that were in rural areas, was quite disturbing.
Aids Society of India (ASI) President Dr Ishwar Gilada has requested the Indian government to review the National Aids Control Programme (NACP) Strategic Plan for 2017-2024 before going into further implementation.
Dr Gilada said ASI which was a professional membership organization of doctors and researchers with up-to-date knowledge on HIV and related diseases, said they were willing to assist the government in multiple ways – policy formulation, implementation, training of human resource and advocacy at the highest level, gratis.
Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa