The Ministry of Health has replaced the National HIV Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) with HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment (HTCT) Day on its calendar of events to be commemorated every year.
This is according to Ministry of Health Spokesman, Dr. KENNEDY MALAMA. The shift from VCT to HTCT is to forge a linkage between HIV testing and treatment as part of the fast-track crusade to end AIDS by 2030. This is aimed at initiating persons living with HIV on Anti-Retroviral Therapy upon diagnosis of the infection.
President EDGAR LUNGU will grace the inaugural HTCT Day on 15th August 15, 2017 at the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) in Lusaka. The theme for HTCT this year is; “Test and Treat: Towards Ending AIDS.” This theme is complemented by the slogan of leaving no one behind entailing the universal nature of covering all sub population groups.
Dr. MALAMA said that the new approach of offering treatment and care to persons infected with HIV immediately after diagnosis allows Zambia to pursue the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) led 90, 90, 90 campaign.
He said that the policy of offering treatment to everyone diagnosed with HIV provides three major benefits namely;
- Raising the quality of lives;
- Forestalling progression of individuals from their HIV positive status to AIDS stage and;
- Averting new HIV infections through viral suppression.
Additionally, prompt treatment of HIV restores individuals’ immune system. The test and treat strategy breaks many barriers which previously hindered or interrupted HIV interventions.
Under the old VCT practice, limited attention was paid to extension of care and support services to individuals diagnosed HIV positive as more emphasis was placed on testing for HIV. During the Test and Treat campaign, the general public will access various promotive, preventive and treatment services.
The Ministry of Health and the National AIDS (HIV/AIDS/STI/TB) Council (NAC) has mobilized partners countrywide to scale up testing and treatment activities prior to August 15 and beyond to ensure maximum number of people access the two services at the same time.