More than 1 million on HIV treatment in KZN, says health MEC

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TSHWANE, December 1 – South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal, the province with the highest HIV levels in the country, on Friday marked World Aids Day by outlining numerous interventions it said was helping turn the tide against the pandemic.

“KZN Department of Health has strengthened efforts to scale up ART [anti-retroviral treatment] care and treatment services. To date, about 1, 3 million people living with HIV in KZN are receiving ARVs. This means that people found to be HIV positive are now initiated on ART treatment immediately after they are diagnosed with HIV,” said KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo while commemorating World Aids Day in the Amajuba District in the north-western part of KwaZulu-Natal.

“To be where we are in this regard, it is thanks to nurses trained in the nurse-initiated management of anti-retroviral treatment (NIMART). They have played a huge role in scaling up access to treatment as patients no longer have to wait for a doctor to assist them. It also means that initiation to ARVs is now offered at clinic level. Having nurses trained on NIMAART has also made it seamless to introduce the universal test and treat (UTT) approach.”

Dhlomo expressed appreciation to all stakeholders who help in ensuring that all pregnant women attend antenatal care as early as possible, preferably in the first 20 weeks.

“For this we say thanks to reinforced household and community pregnancy testing being performed by our community care givers who now offer community based testing initiative.

As a province, the next big challenge that we need to overcome is to ensure that we turn the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV into a reality. This is about seeing KwaZulu Natal further reducing mother to child transmission rate from the baseline of 2.9 percent in 2012 to 0.6 percent at birth, and 0.8 percent around 10 weeks by 2021,” he said.

“This we hope to achieve through improving and enhancing systems for linking prevention, treatment, care and support services for all pregnant/breastfeeding women, their partners and children) across the continuum of care.”

Dhlomo said KZN is “within touching distance” of the envisaged one million mark for men and boys circumcised under government’s safe medical male circumcision programme.

“We have now circumcised more than 993 000 boys and men. This is thanks to good social mobilization activities as championed by Amakhosi, traditional healers; partners and community leaders, among others, for which we are extremely grateful,” said Dhlomo.

As the world marked World Aids Day on Friday, concerns are being raised over the unabated risky behaviour among young people, particularly unprotected sex, as research shows ambivalence towards safe sex by the younger generation.

The 2017 Durex Global Sex Survey, which saw 29 735 participants surveyed from 36 countries, including South Africa, revealed that more than half (54 percent) of 18 to 24-year-olds have risked unprotected sex.

– African News Agency (ANA)