The Ministry of Health and Child Care set in Harare recently to finalise a strategic framework meant to create an enabling environment for implementing solutions that end HIV and congenital syphilis.
In a speech read by the Secretary for Health and Child care Dr. A. Mahomva on behalf of the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo during the official launch of the national validation meeting, Dr Mahomva said that Zimbabwe is optimistic that it will move forward to achieve milestones that it set in the Plan for Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis (EMTCT) 2018-2022.
“I am pleased to note that a national sensitisation meeting of all provincial top management including urban municipalities was convened in June of 2019 and these have since cascaded it down to their provincial validation committees except for one province which is still to train members of their provincial validation committee.”
“For this reason I am optimistic that it will move forward to achieve milestones that it set in the Plan for Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis 2018-2022 EMTCT plan: 2018-2022 and strive towards elimination,” Dr Mahomva said.
The minister further highlighted that Zimbabwe aims to attain dual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and Congenital syphilis.
“We had aimed for the Gold Tier on the path to elimination but we plan to have 95% of all pregnant women booking their pregnancies for antenatal care, and that 95% of all of them who come for antenatal care will have an HIV test; while 95% of those who test HIV positive will be initiated on Antiretroviral therapy (ART) for their own health and for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV.”
“As Zimbabwe, our goal is to attain dual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and Congenital syphilis. As such, we need to test at least 95% of all pregnant women presenting for Antenatal care for syphilis, and treat at least 95% of all those who test positive for syphilis with Benzathine penicillin,” she said.
Although these are ambitious target the ministry’s work is cut out for us to reach these milestones.
The World Health Organisation has also set targets which the ministry has to meet.
“WHO has set impact targets of reducing rates of mother to child transmission of HIV (MTCT rate) to less than 5%, and of having a case rate of less than 250 cases per 100 000 live births for both new infections and congenital syphilis cases, said Dr Mahomva.
To date, I am reliably informed that only a few countries have been validated, maybe only 12 countries globally. These are countries that have a low burden of both HIV and Syphilis. None of the countries that have attained full validation are on the African sub-continent. Even with the revised criteria that the WHO has developed to cater for High HIV prevalence settings, it appears that it will be virtually impossible for any high burden country to attain Gold on the path to elimination of both mother to child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis.
Zimbabwe has been selected as one of the countries to engage in the global discourse around whether the criteria on the path to elimination should be further revised and the results of this meeting will inform the report that will be presented at the upcoming International Conference on STIs and AIDS in Africa.
“The focus of the consultation should be on whether or not the current criteria for Path to Elimination for High burden countries should be revised to more realistically address the complexities encountered in reaching either the bronze, silver or gold tiers in high burden countries.”
“In addition, we should interrogate how well our programmes are performing and what challenges we are encountering on the path to elimination of both HIV and Syphilis.”
“The deliberations of this national committee will be compiled as a report that will inform the discussions that will be held at the upcoming International Conference on STIs and AIDS in Africa (ICASA) happening in Kigali, Rwanda from the 2nd to the 7th of December 2019,” Dr Mahomva said.