This year’s theme for World AIDS Day, which is also the 30th anniversary of the World AIDS Day is “Know your status”.
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to take stock of global, regional and national achievements in addressing HIV and AIDS. On this day partners such as United Nations agencies, governments, private sector, civil society, PLHV and other key affected populations join together around a specific theme to re-affirm their commitments to addressing HIV and AIDS, to advocate for a conducive policy environment in order to advance efforts as well as show solidarity for people living with HIV and key affected populations and to remember those who have died from the devastating effects of the epidemic.
Significant progress has been made in the AIDS response in the last three decades, and today three in four people living with HIV know their status. But we still have a long way to go, as the latest UNAIDS report shows that there are still some gaps in reaching people living with HIV who do not know their status and ensuring that they are linked to quality care and prevention services.
HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives. Testing is also crucial to achieving the 90–90–90 fast track targets by 2020. These targets are, 90 % of all people living with HIV must know their status, 90% of those diagnosed with HIV must be on sustained ART; and 90% of those on ART must have undetectable viral load.
Unfortunately, many barriers to HIV testing remain. Stigma and discrimination still deters people from taking an HIV test. Access to confidential HIV testing is still an issue of concern. Many people still only get tested after becoming ill and symptomatic.
The SADC Secretariat aligns itself with the global call and the theme of ‘Know your status” and calls for the removal of all barriers to accessing HIV testing.
SADC Member States are committed to the global initiative of ending AIDS by 2030. In this context, HIV prevention is placed at a center stage and is being revitalized in the region with a focus on the 5 pillars which are;
- Adolescent Girls and Young Women
- Condom programming,
- Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision
- Key Populations
- Pre – Exposure Prophylaxis
Reaching the 90-90-90 targets will require innovative and efficient HIV testing to reach more people and ensure fast tracking in linking them to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), a renewed commitment to combination prevention which addresses among others, identifying sources of new infections, focus on key populations as well as addressing underlying social, economic and structural barriers including stigma and discrimination.
As we commemorate World AIDS Day, I encourage Member States to scale up efforts to expand HIV testing programmes using models such as self-testing, community-based testing, outreach and mobile services which will ensure that a critical mass of our populations receive testing services and to ensure that those testing positive for HIV are linked to treatment and care services. I further urge policy makers to embrace an integrated approach to HIV/AIDS taking cognizance of emerging diseases such as Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDS) in order to attain the goals of universal health coverage(UHC)