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STATEMENT BY THE RT HON PRIME MINISTER

 

DR B.SIBUSISO DLAMINI

 

AT THE HIGH LEVEL ANNOUNCEMENT OF RESULTS OF THE 2ND SWAZILAND HIV INCIDENCE MEASUREMENT SURVEY

 

AT THE CABINET OFFICES

 

ON MONDAY 24 JULY 2017

 

Programme Director

Honourable Ministers

Your Excellency United States Ambassador

Honourable Members from both Houses of Parliament

Chairperson of NERCHA

United Nations Resident representative

PEPFAR representative

Centre for Disease Control representative

National Director of NERCHA

Representatives of the various stakeholders in the fight

against HIV and AIDS

Representatives of the Media

Ladies and gentlemen

 

It is my honour, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to welcome you all to this highly significant event in the Kingdom’s fight against HIV and AIDS.  It is the day when we announce the details of the second Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey – “SHIMS,” as it is known.  It is the first empirical evidence of progress in tackling one of the prevailing challenges in the fight – that is, the rate of new HIV infections.

This is key data in the Nation’s collective efforts – efforts that started in earnest when His Majesty King Mswati III declared HIV and AIDS as a national disaster in 1999.  At a stroke, the national political commitment was ignited and has been sustained ever since.  Though not without the Nation having to tackle enormous challenges, not least with extensive stigma and denial.

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of progress in the war against HIV and AIDS is one of our fundamental pillars.     The Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey (SHIMS) conducted in 2011, and again in 2016, is part of the national M&E plan and we are proud to be the first country in the world to have used this highly robust, out-in-the-field system to measure the impact of the national response, which has produced the results dissemination today.

In this regard we are today announcing the results of two major impact indicators: the incidence of new HIV infections, and our effectiveness in suppressing viral load through anti-retroviral treatment.  The indicators focus on the selected group of 18-49 years, and I am proud to announce the SHIMS figures.  Firstly, the annual rate of new infections as a proportion of our population has been reduced from 2.5% in 2010-2011, to 1.4% in 2015-2016.   That is no less than a 44% reduction in new infections.

Furthermore, for the same age group, we have achieved an increase, from 34.8% to 71.3%, in the extent of viral load suppression among those on anti-retroviral treatment (ART).  This strongly indicates that a much higher proportion of those on ART are taking their treatment more consistently – a vital routine that also has to be sustained for an individual’s protection from any slide from HIV into AIDS.  We applaud those on ART consistently taking their medication and thus achieving that greatly improved impact of treatment.

In the national fight against HIV and AIDS, Their Majesties have demonstrated a leadership that has galvanised the Nation’s determination in indzaba yetfu sonkhe.  We are eternally grateful to them. And, in addition to this political commitment at the highest level, we have seen the actual budget allocations for the HIV and AIDS programme sustained and ring-fenced from any fiscal adjustment in the context of scarce public sector resources. 

Our country adopted the multisectoral response to HIV and AIDS through our national agency, NERCHA, guided by the Three Ones strategy: One National Coordinating body, One strategic plan, as well as One M&E framework.  Each sector was challenged to lead and make a difference in its area of expertise and comparative advantage.  We have seen our Health sector, for example, being responsible for around 90% of the interventions that have proved to be effective against HIV and AIDS. After 2011, there has been a rapid scaling-up of HIV prevention and treatment interventions such as ART, male circumcision, HIV testing services and the prevention of mother to child HIV transmission.

In the frontline artillery assault force, so to speak, we have seen, at health care service points, strategic teams consisting of medical officers, nurses, allied health workers, expert clients and community workers, coming together  to ensure that people understand HIV and the interventions offered to them. These teams have greatly assisted clients in their respective prevention and treatment journeys.

In communities, our social and cultural structures have provided valuable peer and family support to clients in prevention and treatment interventions.  We have seen community gardens, feeding schemes, prevention programmes in communities and schools, and the introduction of HIV services in the private sector.

Through the clearly defined national plan and coordination mechanism at NERCHA and sectoral level, we have received immeasurable support from development partners such as the UN Global Fund and other members of the UN family, as well as from PEPFAR, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative. For this support we are immensely grateful.

Specifically for the resource support for SHIMS One and Two, we are especially thankful to PEPFAR, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the International Centre for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP).  These partnerships have also facilitated a substantial skills transfer from international to national teams. Our capacity to conduct such national surveys has thus been greatly enhanced.

The key message today is that we, as a Nation, have achieved a significant reduction in new infections.  The rapid scale up of a comprehensive HIV response, including prevention and treatment, in the past five years has made a very significant impact.

Reducing and, ideally, eliminating, the incidence of new HIV infections is, however, only one battle in a bigger war.  His Majesty King Mswati III has included in Vision 2022 the target of an AIDS-free nation by that date.  That dovetails with the globally recognised Three Zero targets:  Zero deaths in AIDS, Zero new infections and Zero stigma against HIV and AIDS.  In aggregate, these represent quite a challenge and I do urge our highly experienced HIV and AIDS professionals to keep the Nation informed on progress towards the Three Zeros in much the same way as we are today reporting on the rate of new infections.  

The SHIMS 2 statistics are enormously encouraging and a fitting tribute to the political leadership at the highest level, to the structured and systematic national planning and coordination, our generously supportive development partners, the dedicated health workers at the frontline of service delivery, our community leaders and a committed nation of determined citizens.  That is the team.  And, as in any team activity, all must pull their weight and share both the responsibility and, as today, the credit.

Now is the time to revitalise the momentum already achieved and make further substantial inroads towards that elusive goal of Zero new infections.  Let us start by committing to the HIV test. There should be no fear in doing so.  Knowing one’s status can be a lifesaver.  We must identify the unreached, and have targeted interventions for those groups of people.   Today, we stand on a new and elevated springboard, ready to jump to higher levels of commitment and the national goal of an AIDS-free nation by 2022. His Majesty’s Government remains committed to that course.

Thank you.

 

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