The Francistown District Multi-Sectoral AIDS Committee (DMSAC) are on course to meet the targets set by the 90-90-90 programme launched in 2017 by Mayor Sylvia Muzila.
The programme’s aim is to ensure that 90% of HIV positive people are diagnosed, 90% provided with antiretroviral drugs and 90% of viral suppression achieved by the year 2020.
With a further two years to go before the set target, the Francistown DMSAC on Tuesday shared figures with the media at Marang Hotel showing that the initiative spearheaded by the Mayor has borne positive results.
Dr Karl Jaba told the media that the first 90% of diagnosis was achieved through campaigns such as house to house and testing in the workplace.
“The first 90% was achieved, and the second was to get 90 percent of those diagnosed on treatment which was also achieved,” he said, adding that once HIV positive people were on treatment their next stage was to ensure compliance with the medication to be able to suppress the viral load.
“That also has been achieved and currently our viral suppression stands at 95%.”
However, the Dr noted that whilst this is a milestone to be celebrated there are still some obstacles hindering the fight against HIV/AIDS.
He said one of the major challenges is posed by young people who do not want to test because they may never have engaged in sex.
“This is problematic because even though they may not be sexually active we still don’t know their mother to child transmission history,” he explained.
He further said the society’s beliefs in different religions is another factor which could reverse their gains in Francistown.
“Some people believe in traditional doctors and has resulted in many patients not complying,” he added.
Jaba also said the rollout of antiretroviral drugs is not smooth as some HIV positive people do not have National Identity Cards (Omang).
“It is a challenge, but as you know we can only work within the confines of the law!”
The issue of HIV-infected foreigners, particularly Zimbabweans, who are denied access to treatment is a sensitive one which has threatened to set the two countries against each other.
The morality of this policy has been questioned especially when it involves a patient with parents from both sides.
At the moment 22, 936 people in Francistown are on ARV treatment – according to the Mayor this represents 22% of the city’s population.