With the theme "Taking action in the response of HIV in the SADC region and Protection of HIV gains in the era of COVID-19", the Mozambican capital, Maputo, hosted from September 14 -16, 2020, the Annual Meeting of the Directors of the National AIDS Councils (NAC) of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The meeting was supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Speaking at the opening of the event, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Zacarias Zindoga recalled that improving the health of the population is one of the priorities for both the Government of Mozambique and for all SADC countries, stressing that it is not acceptable that, every day, citizens in the region continue to suffer from diseases that can be prevented or treated, such as HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, among others.
“The Southern African Development Community remains the region most affected by the HIV-AIDS epidemic, with more than 17 million people living with the virus, which corresponds to 44% of the global population with HIV, according to data from 2019 ”, he said.
Zacarias Zindoga also said that although there are indications that the Southern African Development Community may not meet the 2020 targets for the HIV response, it should be noted that countries have made considerable progress in the fight against the disease, in such a way that new HIV infections decreased by 38% compared to 2010.
“Despite the significant advances mentioned above, some challenges remain, since HIV-AIDS services are unlikely to reach the most vulnerable and those who need them most. Thus, the key and vulnerable population continues to bear the brunt of the epidemic in the region and constitute the most affected group, representing more than 50% of new infections, and adolescent girls and young people are responsible for more than 35% of new HIV infections ”.
Health sector data indicate that Mozambique is among the eight countries with the highest HIV prevalence in the world. The results of the last Survey of Indicators of Immunization, Malaria and HIV-AIDS in the country, carried out in 2015, point to an HIV prevalence of 13.2% in adults, aged 15-49 years old, with women being the most affected (with 15.4%), compared to men (with 10.1%).
Mozambique, which currently chairs SADC, has been taking measures to respond to the burden that this disease constitutes for the National Health System, part of which has been directed to areas of prevention, focused on creating collective awareness of best practices, in order to face this disease, which has a huge negative impact on the social fabric, economy and country’s development.
Despite this, as recognized by the MOH Permanent Secretary, many challenges persist and, now, aggravated by the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In fact, the Maputo meeting is taking place in a virtual format, because of Covid-19, a pandemic that affects the entire world, including the 16 SADC Member States.
According to the World Health Organization, this region, to date, has over 670,000 COVID -19 cases with over 14,000 deaths.
It is against this background that, during the three days, participants updated their respective countries’ HIV status in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in the SADC region; discussed the implications of COVID-19 for maintaining the HIV response in the SADC region; proposed actions to accelerate HIV prevention in the context of COVID-19 and elaborated a roadmap; as well as agreed on agenda items for discussion at the meeting of Ministers of Health in the region.