Following the announcement by the Government of Zambia to adopt the Treat All Policy in dealing with HIV/AIDS, COMESA Director of Gender and Social Affairs Mrs Beatrice Hamusonde has hailed the move saying it will ensure no one is left behind in accessing treatment, care and support.

The Treat All Policy provides for the integration of HIV and AIDS services in routine health service delivery systems such as in primary health care and other health services.  It entails routine testing for HIV for everyone who seeks medical attention in both the private and government hospitals.

Speaking in her office in Lusaka, Mrs Hamusonde said: “Citizens of the region should take the introduction of mandatory testing for HIV as an opportunity that will enable them enjoy good health and well-being.”

This is consistent with COMESA Regional HIV and AIDS Policy which provides for a regional vehicle to guide Member States in their national responses to HIV and AIDS. The policy aims at enabling the region to achieve the 2030 targets which include: ending discrimination in all spheres; universal access to treatment to end AIDS and AIDS-related deaths; prevention of new HIV infections among all groups through HIV combination prevention.

Mrs Hamusonde said: “To achieve these targets, the COMESA HIV and AIDS Policy calls upon Member States to adopt the Treat All Policy so that No One is Left Behind in accessing HIV Treatment, care and support.”

The COMESA HIV and AIDS Policy is inspired by Article 110 of its Treaty that commits Member States to “…control of pandemics or epidemics, communicable and vector borne diseases that might endanger the health and welfare of citizens of the Common Market”.   The Policy is backed by the African Union, Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB, and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030; Global Sustainable Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

According to the African Union (AU), in 2013, there were an estimated 24.7 million people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 71 per cent of the global total. Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa (five of which are members of COMESA), accounted for 81 per cent of all people living with HIV in the region (AU).