IOM, National Aids Council Partner on Border Towns on HIV/AIDS Management in Zambia
Like many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia is one of the countries seriously affected by the HIV pandemic.
According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS), the country’s HIV prevalence currently stands at about 13 per cent,[i] with the 2013 Global AIDS Report indicating Zambia’s significant gains in the national response, and ranking Zambia as one of the top six countries in the world to record reduction in new HIV infections, especially in the prevention of Mother to Child (PMTC) transmission.
To achieve this and more, the response towards HIV interventions must be broadened and this means the inclusion of populations who are considered ‘at risk’ for HIV, including mobile populations. It is for this reason that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the National AIDS Council (NAC) partnered in 2014 to identify gaps and find suitable interventions in order to consolidate and sustain the many gains recorded in the fight against HIV prevention, treatment and support.
According to IOM’s World Migration Report, there are approximately 232 million international migrants and 740 million internal migrants globally, which translates to about one in every seven people world-wide being a migrant, and billions more impacted by the fact that these migrants are on the move.[ii] Based on this, IOM and NAC agreed that it was necessary to establish who comprises ‘mobile populations’ in Zambia, how Zambia can ensure that they are not left out in the national responses to HIV and AIDS, and most importantly, how can it be ensured that mobile populations have access to information on HIV and AIDS and other related health issues.
In addressing the issues raised, IOM and NAC, working in collaboration with local authorities and local Community Based Organizations in Sesheke, Kazungula and Chililabombwe, developed Border-District Strategic HIV and AIDS Smart Investment Plans in 2015. The Plans are aimed at providing an overall strategy for the planning, coordination and implementation of the multi-sectoral district response based on available evidence. The Plans were launched in Sesheke on 2nd October 2015 at a ceremony held at the border point.
Speaking during the launch, IOM Chief of Mission in Zambia, Abibatou Wane, explained that “global figures indicate that mobility is expected to increase to nearly double in the near future.” Key populations, such as people on the move, represent a critical component of our HIV response and the newly launched Strategic Plans will address the needs of the mobile populations, amongst the key populations driving HIV infections, such as women, youth, truck drivers and sex workers.”
During the launch, NAC Director General, Dr. Jabin Mulwanda, explained that the three Strategic Investment Plans launched are well in line with the National AIDS Strategic Framework, which is a blueprint on how to address the HIV and AIDS response in Zambia. Dr. Mulwanda added that the selection of the interventions and strategies outlined in the strategic plans for the districts is premised on the need to focus on high impact interventions with a special attention paid to key populations. He commended IOM for its support to the NAC, and towards the common goal of responding to the national HIV and AIDS challenges faced by Zambia.
The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) also commended IOM for its support to NAC for the development of the Strategic Plans, which assist NAC in its quest to ensure that the country attains its goal of zero new HIV infections. In a speech read for him by Western Province Permanent Secretary, Mwangala Liomba, Western Province Minister Poniso Njeulu said that border towns are a center of attraction for both local and migrant populations, who can ultimately engage in sexual relations, which can pre-dispose them to HIV. He urged the local authorities and community based organizations in the three participating districts to strictly use these plans as a guide in responding to the identified challenges for the attainment of the set objectives of reversing and ultimately eliminating the risks of HIV and AIDS in border towns.