By Yashim Katurak
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has charged African Governments to improve funding support for HIV testing, care and treatment.
WHO said that the improved funding support would ensure all citizens get access to the services they need to live productive lives.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, said this on Saturday in her message to mark the 2018 “World AIDS Day’’, commemorated every year on Dec. 1, with the theme “Know your Status’’.
Moeti said that leaders can achieve better results in reducing the spread of the virus by expanding community-based options and innovations to reach beyond health facilities.
She said that in some parts of the region, HIV testing and access to treatment was still lacking and urged leaders to have stronger political will, commitment and increase investment to achieve universal health coverage in all states.
“I call on countries to use the new HIV testing strategies and to choose a strategic mix of service delivery models to achieve universal and equitable access to HIV testing and counselling.
“We need to expand community-based options and innovations to reach beyond health facilities. We also have to build strong linkages to guarantee HIV prevention, care and treatment services after testing.
“In all this, we need the political will; we need the investment from governments, partners and private sectors, and most of all we need the communities to promote demand for HIV testing services.
“Significant progress has been made in AIDS response since 1988 and today four in five (20.8 million) people living with HIV in the African region know their status.
“In addition, more than three in five (15.3 million) people are accessing life-saving antiretroviral therapy.
“There is a more than 30 per cent reduction in AIDS related deaths since 2010 and people living with HIV are living longer, healthier lives thanks to the sustained access to antiretroviral therapy.
“This progress is however not uniform in our Region. For example, in West and Central Africa, only one in two (2.9 million) people living with HIV know their status.
“That is why WHO, partners and Member States in the sub-region are working together to accelerate the expansion of HIV testing programmes in order to reach people living with HIV who do not know their status and ensure that they are linked to quality and prevention services.’’
The regional director said that HIV testing remained essential in expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with the disease could live healthy and productive lives.
She said that it was also crucial to ensure that 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status; 90 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV receive antiretroviral therapy; and 90 per cent of people living with HIV, and who are on treatment, achieve viral load suppression.
According to Moeti, HIV testing empowers people to make choices about HIV prevention specifically how to protect themselves and their loved ones.
She noted that many young people and adult men were being left behind and others still only get tested after becoming ill.
She listed stigma and discrimination as factors still deterring people from taking an HIV test adding that access to confidential HIV testing was aslo an issue of concern.
“Many of those who are being left behind are those who are more affected by HIV including people who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and prisoners.
Moeti said that as part of the new 5-year strategy for WHO, the organisation was working with Member States in the African region to strengthen their health systems and help them make progress towards universal health coverage.
She said that this would enable all people have access to the services they need without facing financial hardship.