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New HIV infections worry stakeholders

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Secretary for Health Charles Mwansambo Wednesday admitted the need to reduce the occurrence of new cases of HIV, with ministry statistics indicating that the virus is spreading faster in urban and cities than rural areas.

The country registers 33,000 new infections annually and the prevalence rate is pegged at 8.8 percent.

During a review meeting of the 2015-20 National HIV and Aids Strategic Plan, Mwansambo said, while the country had surpassed targets of 90:90:90, it needed to work towards reducing cases of new infections.

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“We were supposed to reduce the rate of new infections by 75 percent but we only managed to reduce the rate by about 41 percent. We, as a nation, need to do more in that area. We all know that there are two groups that are prone to infection: youths and women— key populations which are in large numbers. Measures are needed to protect them from HIV,” Mwansambo said.

Joint United Nations Programme on Aids/HIV Country Director Nuha Ceesay said the country had made strides in managing the pandemic.

He, however, acknowledged the need to identify gaps in current response efforts.

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“If we continue to register new cases of HIV infection, we need to do more by working closely with stakeholders where the new cases of infection are coming from. We know that adolescent girls and young women are vulnerable. It is proper to see the situation that makes people vulnerable rather than [judging] the behaviour,” Ceesay said.

National Aids Commission acting Chief Executive Officer Andrew Gonani said the new strategic plan, set to be launched in December this year, would be a game-changer that would help stakeholders reduce cases of new infections.

“We have a package of HIV prevention strategies which includes behaviour social change, social marketing of condoms, the rolling out of voluntary male medical circumcision and many more. We will offer the package because not everyone would fit in everything; as such, people will be able to select what befits them,” Gonani said.

The country has set new targets of 95:95:95 with aim of ending the spread of the virus by 2030.

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