People living with HIV have been urged to get vaccinated and follow preventive measures to minimise exposure to Covid-19.
The National Aids Council of Zimbabwe’s chief executive Dr Bernard Madzima said people living with HIV should continue taking anti-retroviral drugs, consider vaccination and strictly adhere to Covid-19 regulations so that they do not get the severe form of Covid-19.
He said HIV is also a pandemic which can threaten people’s lives if they fail to adhere to its treatment.
“It is important for people living with HIV to continue taking their medication during this time to avoid other secondary infections such as Covid-19 .
“ART is the only hope for stopping HIV and it is, however, critical to stay on treatment. Adherence is critical in suppressing the virus and the level of drug concentration should be maintained so that treatment becomes effective,” said Dr Madzima.
He said Zimbabwe has done very well in terms of HIV programmes and the country has met the 2020 targets of having 90 percent of people who are aware of their HIV status, 90 percent are on HIV treatment and 90 percent who are on treatment have their viral load suppressed.
“Hospitals continue to provide treatment because health is an essential service which must not be ignored, HIV treatment is very crucial especially during this Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Madzima.
Currently there is no clear evidence that people living with HIV are at an increased risk of acquiring Covid-19 some people are ageing or have other health conditions, including heart disease or lung disease, that are known to make people susceptible to more severe Covid-19 symptoms.
The ongoing pandemic is elevating the concerns about the burden this pandemic could be having on people living with HIV. While there is no evidence yet to prove how much risk Covid-19 poses for people living with HIV, there are possibilities that the pandemic could disrupt access to treatment, testing, and retention in care.
The Government with assistance from its development partners has put in place measures for continuum of care for people living with HIV to guard the gains achieved so far in the HIV fight.
Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV are a deadly combination with TB being the number one cause of death for people living with HIV accounting for more than 30 percent of deaths (UNAIDS, 2018).
The funds were in addition to the United States Agency for International Development’s US$470 000 contribution to the World Health Organisation to support Zimbabwe’s fight against Covid-19.