Turning the HIV epidemic into an opportunity

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(R - L) Acting Prime Minister, Hon. Senator Paul Dlamini and the PCB Board Chair, Mr Alexander Grant Ntrakwa at Cabinet Offices during a courtesy call.
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(Front row, L-R) UN Resident Coordinator, Israel Dessalegne; UNAIDS Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Dr. Catherine Sozi; PCB Chair, Mr. Alexander Grant Ntrakwa; Acting Prime Minister, Hon. Senator Paul Dlamini; Minister of Health, Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane; Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Prince Hlangusemphi; NERCHA Council Chairperson and the entire PCB delegation, including other government and UN officials.

The UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB), led by Mr. Alexander Grant Ntrakwa, PCB Chair, and Dr. Catherine Sozi, UNAIDS Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, met with the Acting Prime Minister, Hon. Senator Paul Dlamini, to congratulate the Kingdom of Swaziland for the impressive progress made towards ending AIDS and to gather lessons learnt for the global response.

Through various interactions with Senior Government officials, UN family, civil society and health professionals, the PCB learnt first-hand how Swaziland’s unique traditional structures, setting and cultural practices contributed to the country’s success in halving new HIV infections rate and doubling viral load suppression in five years (2011 – 2016).

The PCB applauded His Majesty, King Mswati III for taking lead in the response – ensuring HIV interventions are coordinated at the Prime Minister’s office, following the declaration of the epidemic as an emergency in 1999. Consistent HIV advocacy messages carried in the Head of State’s public speeches, decentralized and integrated health services and shared responsibility among health professionals were highlighted by the Minister of Health, Hon. Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane, as some of the key efforts undertaken by the country in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Sharing the country’s experience and vision in turning the HIV epidemic from a crisis to an opportunity, the Acting Prime Minister expressed his confidence that Swaziland will soon be celebrating achievements on the 90-90-90 Fast Track targets as the nation steps up its efforts to realize the King’s vision of ending AIDS by 2022. He further acknowledged UNAIDS for being one of Swaziland’s strongest allies in the HIV response and for giving the country space to share successes in global events.

The PCB met with the UN Country Team and noted with admiration how the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) supports interagency collaboration in the HIV response, particularly interventions targeting young adolescents, women and key populations. In a meeting with civil society, the PCB appreciated interventions that make use of existing structures unique to Swaziland, including the over 350 traditionally-led chiefdoms, to improve treatment and prevention literacy skewed towards rural communities.

The PCB also visited the Correctional Services Clinic, the Central Medical Stores, and the Matsapha Comprehensive Care Clinic providing integrated HIV/TB services. Swaziland’s vision of ending AIDS is articulated in Umgubudla, the Swaziland HIV Investment Case which identified high impact game changing interventions on HIV Treatment, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision, HIV prevention for adolescent girls and young women and the management and treatment of TB and HIV co-infections. 

Quotes

“As a country, where there is a problem we come together. Strengths of existing traditional structures are used for HIV interventions” - Minister of Health, Hon. Senator Sibongile Ndlela.

“As a nation, we recognize that responding to the HIV epidemic requires sound leadership and a mobilized nation bonded by the desire to prove to the world that we shall not perish.” - Acting Prime Minister,  Hon. Senator Paul Dlamini.