‘Biomedical HIV research crucial’

23 Nov, 2021 - 00:11 0 Views
‘Biomedical HIV research crucial’

The Chronicle

Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
BIOMEDICAL HIV research is crucial in Zimbabwe’s fight against the disease as reports show that the number of key populations and vulnerable groups in the country is unknown, an official has said.

Key populations include female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs and prisoners.

These groups are reportedly contributing a significant proportion of new HIV infections recorded annually.
About 20 000 new cases are recorded annually in Zimbabwe, a country which has 11,9 percent HIV prevalence rate, the fifth highest in Africa.

HIV prevalence data for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is lacking. At the moment, female sex workers contribute 4 000 new HIV infections annually while MSM contribute 2 000.

Sex workers are estimated to be 40 470 and HIV prevalence among them is at about 57,1 percent.

Speaking during a Biomedical HIV Prevention Forum (BHPF) yesterday, the Community Working Group on Health consultant Ms Caroline Mubaira said there is lack of data on size estimation and HIV burden among some key populations.

“Research is needed for key populations and vulnerable populations as they are contributing a significant proportion of new HIV infections,” she said.

Ms Mubaira said small-scale miners, cross border traders, farm workers, fishermen, people with disabilities and the informal sector are considered as vulnerable populations.

“There are no specific interventions for these populations and there is no data on HIV burden and vulnerabilities among these people,” she said.

Ms Mubaira said research on these groups will help Zimbabwe move a step further towards meeting the global goal of ending Aids by 2030.

“There is also a need to review the laws that reinforce stigma and discrimination; empowering people living with HIV and those at risk and affected by HIV.

“We also have a study that shows that socio-economic inequalities in HIV testing uptake have persisted despite massive scale-up of HIV testing,” she said.

Ms Mubaira said Covid-19 had also impacted HIV programming as it accelerated among mobile, well-connected networks and the burden shifted to poorer people, young women and marginalised groups.

National Aids Council chief executive officer Dr Bernard Madzima said a bottom-up biomedical research approach that is community led, youth led, key population led will help in achieving global HIV goals.

“Zimbabwe is aspiring for an Aids free generation and we seek to reduce new infections by 80 percent by 2025. We support the vision of Africa of ending Aids by 2030. Our prevalence has been declining, but remains relatively very high,” said Dr Madzima.

It is worth noting that prevalence among youths is higher in females than males, but in key populations, the prevalence is 28 percent.

Dr Madzima said there was a need for interventions informed by biomedical research to achieve zero transmissions. — @thamamoe

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