LUSAKA, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Zambia on Thursday joined the rest of the world in commemorating this year's World AIDS Day with a call to ensure equity in accessing HIV services for all.
Commemorated under the theme "Equalize", the main event in Lusaka, the country's capital was held at the Kenneth Kaunda International Conference Center. President Hakainde Hichilema said this year's theme highlights the need for the country to ensure higher and equitable coverage of HIV services for people.
"It is a right of every Zambian and every person living with HIV to have access to high-quality HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services, when and where they need it," he said in a speech read for him by Minister of Education Douglas Syakalima.
He said the services should be provided regardless of geographical location, social status, ethnicity, or religious background.
The Zambian president called for the need to close the inequality gaps that have continued to fuel new HIV infections and cause premature deaths.
The government, he said, remains resolute in achieving national, regional and global goals of ending AIDS by 2030 but called for concerted efforts to tackle social and economic challenges that were feeding and driving the HIV epidemic.
He bemoaned the increased rates of new HIV infections especially among young people, adding that there is a need to enhance tailor-made services such as innovative testing and treatment strategies targeted at vulnerable populations.
Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo said the inequalities were holding back the progress made in ending HIV and AIDS. The minister, who announced the results of the Zambia Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (ZAMPHIA, 2021), said the country has made progress against the HIV epidemic despite disparities among populations.
According to the survey results, the HIV prevalence among people aged 15 and above stands at 11 percent but the minister expressed concerns that there are disparities across gender with women representing 14 percent and men eight percent.
The survey has also shown that 89 percent of people living with HIV aged 15 and above know their status with 98 percent of them on HIV treatment while 96 percent of people on treatment have suppressed the virus.
"These results have shown that the government, through the Ministry of Health, has been working towards the attainment of eliminating HIV as a public health problem by the year 2030," she said.
She, however, noted that this will only be achieved through a shift in attitude, behavior, and leadership, adding that there was also a need to focus on priority populations in order to tackle inequalities.
Beatrice Mutali, the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator said it was unfortunate that the global inequalities in fighting HIV and AIDS were still growing.
She said it was time for Zambia and Africa, in general, to take bold steps to tackle inequalities that were holding back the fight against HIV and AIDS.
She said the UN will do everything possible to provide support to ensure that inequalities were tackled in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Zambia remains one of the countries globally that have been hard hit by the HIV epidemic, with over 1.3 million people living with HIV.