All people who tested positive to HIV from Manicaland and Matabeleland South provinces in June will immediately be placed on antiretroviral therapy regardless of their CD4 count as the country seeks to operationalise the latest World Health Organisation guidelines on treatment and care of HIV.
In an interview on the sidelines of Jibilika Dance Festival launch held in Mutare at the weekend, the Organisation for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID), policy advocacy and communications manager Mrs Loveness Mlambo-Chimombe whose organisation is supporting Government to pilot the guidelines, said the pilot project was running in seven selected districts.
She said in Manicaland, the pilot was running in Mutare, Mutasa, Makoni and Chipinge while in Matabeleland South province, Gwanda, Bulilima and Mangwe had also started giving ARVs to anyone who tests HIV positive.
“Previously, there were eligibility issues where HIV positive people were initiated on ART only if their CD4 count was 500 and below but with the new guidelines, all limitations were removed. There is no waiting period for somebody to be on ARVs. What we are saying is that HIV treatment is now available for everyone who tests HIV positive,” said Mrs Mlambo-Chimombe.
The pilot, which started in June, is being led by OPHID’s Families and Communities for the Elimination of HIV (FACE HIV) with support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Mrs Mlambo-Chimombe said the pilot phase is, therefore, meant to assess the feasibility of putting everyone on treatment in Zimbabwe upon testing HIV positive, draw lessons and strengthen the programme before a national roll out.
“We are starting small in Zimbabwe. This is a pilot phase, which we are going to learn from in terms of informing the national rollout of the treat all programme,” said Mrs Mlambo-Chimombe.
She said Jibilika Dance Festival was a befitting platform to reach out particularly to communities in Manicaland especially the youths. – Herald