Lumbidzani Dima, Chronicle Reporter
VICTORIA Falls has started implementing HIV mass viral load collection activities to ensure that every HIV positive patient in the city is virally suppressed by year end, a development health experts said results in the virus being undetectable.
Daily antiretroviral therapy can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to levels that are undetectable with standard tests, although the virus would still be present in the body.
However, according to WHO people living with HIV who take antiretroviral medications daily as prescribed can achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load and have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.
Victoria Falls is aiming at having more such people by the end of this year and as it moves towards that, the city has since recorded a decline in the number of new HIV infections.
This is according to submissions the city made as part of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of its frameworks and progress towards regional and global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an initiative that is being supported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
According to UNECA, Victoria Falls and Harare in Zimbabwe, Accra in Ghana, Yaoundé in Cameroon and Ngora District in Uganda are among the first local authorities to undertake local level reviews undertaken across Africa, with many more on the way.
In its submission to the review process, Victoria Falls said it has managed to detect most people living with HIV in its catchment area.
Its target now is to suppress their viral load which may see those who are HIV positive not transmitting the virus.
“The success of the HIV program in the town hinges on what is known as the 3 90s. The first 90 indicates that at least 90% of people living with HIV need to know their status.
The second 90 indicates that at least 90% of the first 90 should be on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Then the third 90 indicates that at least the 90% of the second 90 should be virally suppressed,” read the city’s review report.
“Currently, according to the spectrum, Victoria Falls Town has managed to detect most people living with HIV in its catchment area and has put them on chronic HIV care. The biggest challenge that remains is to ensure all HIV infected people are virally suppressed.
The Town health centre has started implementing activities on mass viral load collection aiming to ensure the last 90, of virally suppressing everyone is achieved by the end of 2022.”
The report said Victoria Falls had recorded a decline in the number of new HIV infections from 5,3 percent in 2015 to 3,1 percent in 2019.
The decline was credited to Victoria Falls Municipality’s outreach and awareness efforts, which were sponsored in collaboration with development agencies such as the Global Fund.
This falls under the town’s five-year Strategic Development Plan (SDP) of a smart and competitive city which is based on the independent values of accountability, transparency, customer service, environmental stewardship, innovation, integrity, and teamwork.
In a statement to the review process report, the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, July Moyo hailed Victoria Falls and Harare for being good starting points in improving data collection and reporting on SDGs.
He challenged other local authorities to follow those footsteps.
“The reports for Harare and Victoria Falls City Council are a good starting point for local authorities to walk the talk of sustainable development and improve on data collection and reporting.
Our expectation is that every Zimbabwean council should become a repository of knowledge and good practice on Sustainable Development Goal reporting and implementation for achievement of an upper-middle income society by 2030,” said Minister Moyo.
In his report, Victoria Falls mayor, Councillor Somveli Dlamini said SDGs lay a solid framework for service delivery, which is a mandate for all local authourities. He said his city thrives as a tourist destination by providing outstanding services to both visitors and locals.
“The local authority’s vision is anchored on the provision of quality services and it is prudent to note that SDGs highlight several areas critical to the provision of quality service and key among them are quality education, clean and safe water, good health, reduced inequality and gender equality, eradication of poverty and hunger, as well as to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” said Cllr Dlamini.
He said as a local authority they are still lagging behind in other areas because of being weighed down by various challenges.
“As a local authority, we need to step up our efforts if we are to attain SDGs by 2030. Our participation in this VRL program challenged us to strengthen our vision towards creating quality life for residents and visitors,” said Cllr Dlamini.