Zimbabweans were urged to redouble their efforts to achieve a single digit HIV prevalence rate in the coming years, a health official said on Wednesday.
They should not become complacent in the wake of a decline in the HIV prevalence rate, but work to reduce the figure to single digit, Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa said at the launch of a video on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission.
Overall HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe peaked at 34 percent in 2002 and has been progressively declining over the past five years with the Demographic Health Survey of 2005-2006 indicating that prevalence has declined to 18.1 percent.
"This is still very high by any standards," said Parirenyatwa. "We still have a fight, a big fight." He said HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe could be reduced quickly by preventing parent to child transmission, adding evidence from the developed world showed that it was possible to cut paediatric HIV transmission by 95 percent.
Parirenyatwa said the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, in collaboration with international partners, was formulating a comprehensive strategic plan for HIV prevention and care in children, which put huge emphasis on prevention.
At least 42,000 people are benefiting from the government's free ARVs program. The government had planned to have 171,000 people on the program by the end of this year.
An additional 6,000 people are purchasing the drugs using their own resources, a figure which Parirenyatwa said was still very small, adding that was an area where development partners could assist to increase the number of people accessing the drugs.
Parirenyatwa attributed the decline in HIV prevalence in the country to change in behavior as a result of the awareness campaigns that the government and other development partners have been carrying out throughout the country.
He said there was need for concerted efforts to fight stigma and discrimination against people living HIV and AIDS and to encourage all Zimbabweans, particularly the sexually active, to get tested and know their status.
Out of the 1.6 million or so people living with HIV and AIDS, at least 12 percent know their status and the rest do not know, he said.