His Excellency, The Right Honourable Prime Minister for the kingdom of Eswatini Mr. Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini held a joint launch for the HIV Prevention Policy, HIV Stigma Index and World AIDS Campaign this week, at the Royal Villas Hotel. Over 100 people attended the colourful event, and among them were Members of the Royal family, Chiefs, Cabinet Ministers, United Nations Regional Coordinator Ms. Catherine Sozi, the UN family, EU Ambassador, US Ambassador, Senior Government Officials, Civil Society and People Living with HIV, among others.
Speaking at the launch, the Prime Minister acknowledged the positive strides made by the kingdom since the outbreak of the HIV pandemic in the early 1990s. He stated that globally, the rate of new HIV infections was gradually dropping, especially within the SADC region. He noted that the Kingdom of Eswatini has recorded a 44 per cent drop in five years between 2011 and 2017, according to the 2017 Eswatini HIV Incidence Measurement Survey, observing that this was the highest drop in the SADC region. The Prime Minister also stated that while this was a significant achievement, it is also worrying that the HIV incidence remained high among adolescent girls and young women in Eswatini. “As a country we have set an ambitious target of reducing the HIV incidence among persons aged 15-19 years by 85 percent and among infants aged 0-1 year to less than 0.05 percent. To achieve these targets, a deliberate and vigorous targeting of this population group with HIV prevention intervention is essential,” he said. He decried the fact that the nation has 14% people who are HIV positive, but who do not know their status, saying this must be addressed in order for the country to achieve the national goal of ending AIDS by 2022. He also mentioned that while annual HIV related deaths had steadily declined over the years to 3 500 in 2017, there had to be a concerted effort by all to reduce this rate even further to attain the country’s targets for 2022.
When launching the HIV Stigma Index Report 2019 the Prime Minister called upon all stakeholders to implement this report to create an enabling and happy environment for people living with HIV in Eswatini. “To make this dream a reality, the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini, through NERCHA will provide a kick-start programme directed at supporting people living with HIV at grassroots level with a Regional Small Grants Programme,” he said. He explained that this livelihood programme would ensure that befitting groups of people living with HIV accessed grants of up to E30 000 per group to implement programmes against HIV/AIDS at community level. This initiative will be monitored closely and depending on annual performance, decisions would be made on future investments. The PM stated that the government has pledged E800 000 towards this programme, much to the delight of those present.
His Excellency also launched the World AIDS Campaign for 2019 under the them
Communities make a difference”. He made mention that as the country is working towards attaining the goal of Ending AIDS towards by 2022, the theme in the local context will not only recognize the role that communities have played in the HIV response but will also mobilize communities to intensify their effort towards achieving the 2022 national goal. He further shared that as the theme for the year dictates, community dialogues and other community-based activities will mark the WAC build up within the identified Inkhundla in each of the four regions of the country. He encouraged everyone present to participate at least one dialogue.
Other speakers at the event were; United Nations Regional Coordinator Ms. Catherine Sozi, UUN family, EU Ambassador, US Ambassador Ms. Lisa Peterson, Ms. Futhi Shongwe who shared on the challenges of Young People living with HIV, and Mr. Khanya Mabuza who presented the National HIV Prevention Policy. Following the speeches, the PM presented National Prevention Policy and the HIV Stigma Index, after a symbolic launch. He also lit the first candle which representative from other sectors used to light their own candles, symbolizing the launch of the World AIDS Campaign. Entertainment was provided The Royal Eswatini Gospel Messengers and Toti group.