Vice President Mutale Nalumango has expressed concern over the escalating HIV infection rates among adolescents in Zambia.
In her address during the annual HIV, Testing, Counselling and Treatment Day (HTCT) at The University of Zambia, Mrs. Nalumango highlighted the urgent need for preventive measures, which include comprehensive testing services and tackling issues such as substance abuse and peer pressure among youths.
Mrs. Nalumago said that undergoing an HIV test is the initial step towards gaining the necessary knowledge for treatment or prevention.
The vice president particularly stressed on the significance of testing for adolescents, young adults, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers, as they are at a higher risk of contracting new infections.
“Adolescents account for 50% of the newly recorded HIV infections, implying that around 90,000 individuals aged between 10-19-years-old are living with HIV and half of these are reliant on life-sustaining medication,” Mrs. Nalumango stated.
She further revealed that Zambia carries a high HIV burden in Africa, with an estimation of 1.4 million adults living with HIV.
“Currently, 1,197,742 individuals are on antiretroviral treatment, and an impressive 96% of these have achieved viral load suppression,” she said.
The Vice President also emphasized on the importance of consistent medication adherence not only for one’s own health but also for safeguarding the well-being of loved ones.
She further called on the involvement of young people in testing, saying that it would significantly impact the fight against HIV.
Meanwhile, Brian Reid the vice president of International Sales at OraQuick HIV Self-Test, highlighted the potential of their product in enhancing testing accessibility, stating that it allows individuals to perform a test in the privacy of their own homes.
Mr. Reid emphasized on the accuracy and simplicity of the self-test, and further encouraged individuals that a positive result should prompt them to seek counseling and medical guidance at a healthcare facility.
Speaking in a sideline interview at the same event, the University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) President Chandra Choongo, pledged the institution’s commitment to working with the Ministry of Health to raise awareness about HIV infection and actively participate in combating its spread among adolescents.
“Our goal as students of the University of Zambia is to be ambassadors for the end of HIV/AIDS movement in Zambia and spread awareness throughout the country,” Mr. Choongoe said.
He further applauded the introduction of the OraQuick HIV Self-Test, stating that it offers a solution for individuals who are hesitant to visit clinics or hospitals for testing due to fear of their statuses being disclosed.
HTCT day took place on August 15th at the University of Zambia’s Goma Lakes, under the theme “Young People Make a Difference: Test for HIV” and the event aimed at raising awareness about the importance of testing and preventive interventions.