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Zambia, 13 October 2010: Champions unite to renew battle against HIV

UNICEF welcomes new initiative

LUSAKA, Zambia, 13 October 2010 – UNICEF today welcomes the announcement by the Government of the Republic of Zambia that it has invited four former heads-of-state from the region to support efforts to accelerate HIV prevention in the country and beyond.

The elder statesmen, who are also Champions for an HIV/AIDS-free Generation, are former Presidents Festus Mogae of Botswana, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, and Dr. Kenneth D. Kaunda, Zambia’s first Republican President. Former vice president of Uganda, Speciosa Wandira, and Kenya's National AIDS Control Council chairperson, Miriam Were, will also attend.

“This high-level advocacy campaign reflects the strong political commitment of both the Government and respected regional leaders to scale-up HIV and AIDS prevention efforts,” said UNICEF Zambia Officer-in-Charge Dr. Nilda Lambo. “We commend His Exellency, President Rupiah Bwezani Banda for inviting this delegation to Zambia.”

According to Zambia’s National AIDS Council (NAC) spokesperson Justine Mwiinga, President Mogae will lead the delegation, which will work in the country from 19 to 21 October. The leaders are expected to share new insights regarding the progress and challenges Zambia faces towards scaling up prevention efforts. The champions will also focus on the low rate of condom use, low male circumcision rates, and efforts to end gender-based violence, which is a driver of HIV transmission. The United Nations Joint HIV Team in Zambia, including UNICEF, is providing technical support and background information material to the NAC on HIV/AIDS in Zambia and its impact on children and their families.

According to a recently released report, Towards Universal Access on HIV AIDS by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and UNAIDS, Zambia has made good progress towards increasing coverage levels of HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART). Coverage of HIV testing and counselling among pregnant women in Zambia is high, with more than 95 percent coverage in 2009. Of those testing positive 69 percent received antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

The number of people receiving ART increased by 29 percent to 283,000 from 2008 to 2009, reaching  an overall coverage of 64 percent of those in need of treatment. The percentage of children in need of treatment who actually received ART also increased from 31 percent in 2008 to 36 percent in 2009, but is still much lower than for adults.

“Expanding HIV testing and counselling among pregnant women is critical for identifying those in need of follow-up care as well as increasing the coverage of subsequent interventions to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” said Dr. Lambo. “The progress Zambia has made to accelerate the fight against HIV and AIDS provides hope to its people but there is still a long way to go. We must ensure that people seek treatment on time so that many more lives can be saved.”

“We also need to help the Government dramatically scale up the number of Zambians who know their HIV status, and there are serious issues of stigma and discrimination that we and our partners are working to overcome. We clearly need to improve the demand side along with the services,” Dr. Lambo noted.

The Champions for an HIV-free Generation were launched during the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico in 2008 to garner high-level political commitment to fight against HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Besides holding high-level meetings in Lusaka, the champions will also visit the Kafue District Hospital, where male circumcision services are offered. Medical male circumcision can  reduce the risk of a man becoming affected with HIV through unprotected sex by approximately 60 percent.

For more information, please contact:

Patrick Slavin, Chief, Communications, UNICEF Zambia
Tel + 260-211-252055, pslavin@unicef.org

Betty C. Nalungwe, Senior Communications Assistant, UNICEF Zambia
Tel + 260-211 252055, bcnalungwe@unicef.org

 

 
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