A study revealed that HIV infection rates in the country were worsened by individuals having multiple concurrent partners and they embarked on several campaigns to drive awareness and share information around the dangers of having multiple concurrent partners and the risk of HIV infection.
Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) is the first African nation to surpass the United Nations (UN) 2030 target of 95–95–95, as per HIV testing, treatment and suppression.
Now, ahead of the 2020 target, 95% of people living with HIV in this country have been diagnosed, 95% of those diagnosed are on treatment, and 95% of those on treatment are virally suppressed.
NO OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRY HAS ACHIEVED THIS FEAT YET
Aggressive interventions in testing and treatment, plus tenacious community prevention programming are some of factors that led to the attainment of this lofty height.
Initially, Eswathini faced an estimated 27% of adults infected with HIV-Aids, with a massive health challenge that threatened to destabilise the health system and the nation’s overall economy – but the Kingdom has emerged victorious from the abyss of hell to the paradise of security in term of tackling HIV/AIDS.
Reports confirm that prevention, treatment, and community prevention programming were the order of the season to get the results achieved so far.
Abstinence or the use of condoms and sexual exclusivity with one partner to prevent further spread of virus were aggressively preached. and these methods worked as temporary measures.
Furthermore, Eswathini pursued a stern action to make the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV a top priority and this dropped the rate of transmission from approximately 30% to less than 1%. This was a major breakthrough.
As infections began to rise again rapidly in 2011, they focused solely on the cohort that was infected with HIV. We ring fenced resources for HIV-Aids treatment, ensuring that every person who had been infected had access to ARVs.
Ambrose Dlamini, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom said:
“Since then, our approach to treatment has also been inclusive of community programming. We have placed mobile facilities in various communities for mass testing and used door-to-door and index testing, successfully tracking, testing, and providing treatment to infected people across the country.
In addition to ramping up treatment, we have also seen an increase in men opting to be circumcised, a welcome move that has been proven to lower the risk of HIV infection.
We can now confidently say that we are reducing the number of new infections rapidly, and are providing high quality HIV services to people living with HIV-Aids.
The road to achieving 95-95-95 has been long and winding but we are proud to have achieved this feat. However, we are not going to be popping the champagne just yet: we need to continue to ramp up treatment and not become complacent in raising awareness especially among younger generations about the risks of HIV-Aids.
As the world faces the Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the HIV-Aids epidemic that still has unfinished business.
To echo the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, “We must not drop the ball on HIV… We cannot allow the hard-fought gains made in the HIV response to be reversed. Especially as there is still so far to go to finish the job.” DM
Ambrose Dlamini was previously Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Eswatini. He joined the company in August 2010 and has worked in the banking industry for more than 18 years, including a seven-year tenure as managing director of Nedbank Eswatini.