President Edgar Lungu says routine HIV testing is yielding positive results despite some people taking it as a joke when it was declared.

And UN Resident Coordinator Janet Rogan has observed that Gender Based Violence victims are more susceptible to HIV infection than other people.

Speaking during the commemoration of World AIDS Day at Nkholoma Stadium today, President Lungu also said it was important to integrate young people in prevention mechanisms.

“Let me take this opportunity to state that the routine HIV testing services to all members of the public currently being offered in health centres is truly yielding positive results. I want to say this because when I said tipima, some of you thought I was joking. Our Health Management Information System data shows that the proportion of people living with HIV, who know their status, has increased from below 70 percent to 74 percent in three months,” President Lungu said.

“I therefore call upon all our traditional, political, civic leaders and every concerned citizen to take bold steps such as ending child marriages in our communities to safeguard the lives of our children and young people. We need to employ effective interventions which will avert new infections and deaths. We should always remember to include young people in various interventions in our quest for solutions.”

President Lungu announced that government would establish a National Prevention Coalition which would be under the patronage of his wife Esther.

“My government’s focus is to reposition prevention as the main drive of the national multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS response. Greater emphasis should be placed on scaling-up HIV prevention services which enable individuals to maintain their HIV negative status, as well as, improve access to quality treatment and care services. In this regard, Zambia joined the global HIV prevention coalition comprising 24 countries with a high burden of the epidemic. The global prevention was launched in October 2017 in Geneva and is aimed at accelerating HIV prevention and to reduce new infections by 75 percent, by the year 2020. In line with this global HIV prevention coalition, as government we have committed to establish a national prevention coalition,” he said.

“I am pleased to announce that the National Prevention Coalition will be formed under the patronage of the first lady, Mrs Esther Lungu and co-chaired by ministers responsible for health and finance while an appointed member of the clergy will be the vice- chairperson. This coalition will draw membership from the traditional leadership, private sector, civil society and cooperating partners.”

President Lungu also launched the 2018 Lusaka Antiretroviral Therapy surge campaign.

“I am glad to inform you that my government has also fast tracked efforts to reach “HIV treatment saturation” to achieve HIV epidemic control by 2020 or earlier. Further, the ministry of health working with its partners has established the first intensive urban HIV test and treat surge in Africa. It will be urban based to make sure that where we have the biggest impact of HIV AIDS, we go with the biggest punch. It is now my honour to officially launch the 2018 Lusaka Antiretroviral Therapy surge campaign in collaboration with the United States government through the U.S. president’s emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). With this campaign, our plan is to control the epidemic in Lusaka province by December 2018,” said President Lungu.

“My passionate appeal to all Zambians is to support this campaign by getting tested now, and if negative lead a responsible life, and if positive, start Antiretroviral Therapy immediately!”

And Rogan said GBV victims were more vulnerable to HIV.

“World AIDS Day is happening during the campaign of 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence. And bringing this subject together with the subject of World AIDS day, those who suffer from GBV are more vulnerable and more susceptible to infection by HIV than any other…we need to take responsibility to protect the most vulnerable, to protect our women, to protect our girls and not exploit them. Each of us must educate ourselves on how to protect ourselves,” said Rogan.