The kingdom of Eswatini yesterday launched HIV estimates and projections 2019 during a breakfast meeting held at Hilton Garden Hotel in Mbabane. The event was hosted by the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Ministry of Health and other partners in the HIV response. HIV Estimate and Projections is a global report that is produced annually using available data at country level that is applied on SPECTRUM to produce projection and estimate over a five-year period. The HIV estimates, and projections are a key source of strategic information to guide planning and resource prioritization in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Making his welcome remarks, NERCHA Executive Director, Mr. Khanya Mabuza said the kingdom of Eswatini is one of the countries performing very well in reducing HIV. He applauded the country for being able to collect data over the year, and assured the participants that data used to compile the Estimates and projections were accurate estimates. Eswatini has made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS. From an estimated 16 000 new infections between 1991, 1996 and 1997, projections showed that there has been a decline of 35 percent on same, with about 8 000 new infections of the pandemic in 2018. The decline is also depicted in the number of HIV/AIDS related deaths as it was estimated that about 7 000 people died of AIDS Related illnesses between 2004 and 2005 but the numbers have over the years declined to an estimated 2 500 in 2028, showing a decline of 35 per cent as well.
UNAIDS Country Representative Tim Rwabuhemba explained that said all countries are required to produce HIV estimates and projections annually; with the purpose of monitoring the AIDS pandemic, tracking progress on the fight against HIV and efforts to Ending AIDS as a public health threat. He commended the country for contextualizing the global report to produce a country report. He observed that although Eswatini was gradually winning the battle, there was need to quicken the pace, especially in reducing new HIV infections. He encouraged all Eswatini to use 2019 HIV estimates and projections report, as ESTIMATES to assist us monitor our progress on the AIDS response and for planning in our respective programmatic areas. He said the HIV prevalence has stabilized at 27 percent with new infections declining.
The process of developing national estimates and projections was led by a modeling task team comprising officers from the Ministry of Health, UNAIDS, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Coordinating Assembly for Non-governmental Organizations (CANGO) and NERCHA.
In his closing remarks, the Permanent Secretary in the of Ministry of Health Dr Zwane commented that the estimates tell us that we must work even harder as a country, saying we should consider how to put the information to maximum use.
“From these numbers, how do we get to the people; how do we disseminate these results and make sense to them. Let us go and engage our front-line people and make them understand, ‘he asked.
He challenged the team to make sure these results are made known to policy makers as well. He raised a concern on AIDS related deaths, he said we should dig deeper and find out if the people are dying of AIDS related illnesses or they have other illnesses but when they die, the statistic goes to AIDS related deaths. He also shared his concerns about the number of teen pregnancy is also on the rise. If the girls fall pregnant, there is a high possibility of them also getting infected by HIV, we need to aggressively address this,” he said emphatically.