Highlands Hope Umbrella welcomes the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations on June 8 of a new and actionable Political Declaration on Ending AIDS including a set of specific targets to be reached by 2020 to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
The world community has now declared that it is behind the UNAIDS “Fast Track” framework for action including its “90-90-90” target: that is, by 2020 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status; 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are on anti-retro-viral treatment; and 90% of people on treatment have viral loads reduced to undetectable levels. Fast Track also seeks to reduce new infections 75% by 2020 and HIV-AIDS related discrimination and stigma to zero.
“We have seen great progress in the last decade,” says Highlands Hope Umbrella board chair Betty Liduke. “We are proud that the government of Tanzania is among the countries who approved this next step in the global fight to end AIDS. But we must do more, especially for children and adolescents who are still at great risk from HIV in our communities.”
Highlands Hope Umbrella has piloted and supported innovative strategies to raise awareness and provide the highest quality care including its unique primary school based Youth Peer Health Education network (currently in 50 schools across the Njombe Region), paediatric HIV care clinics at the TANWAT Care and Treatment Centre, as well as community based testing and point of care diagnostic services.
Efforts to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV have been very successful but reducing new infections among adolescents is more difficult. There are many factors that put young people at an elevated risk of HIV but UNAIDS Fast Track recognizes that more youth-friendly health services with HIV and sexual health services that are specific to young age groups are essential.Schools need to be more involved and the potential of young people themselves to be powerful peer health educators in primary and secondary schools should be recognized and supported.
“We think that we already work in the spirit of Fast Track at Highlands Hope,” says George Sanga, Program Coordinator at Highlands Hope. “We intend to make our own strong contribution to ending AIDS by 2030, taking inspiration from UNAIDS targets like“90 – 90 – 90”and protectingour young people. The best news is that now we know that AIDS can be beaten.”