“No cure for HIV yet”, Bishow Parajuli

365d5420-d47a-4c48-a257-32cf8aaa2018.JPG

1 November 2018, Harare – The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Bishow Parajuli, and the National AIDS Council Operations Director, Mr. Raymond Yekeye, participated in a live discussion on Alpha Media Holdings’ radio programme Heӓrt and Sӧul.

The discussion, entitled “HIV Cure – Myth or Reality?”, aimed at demystifying the recent claims reported in the media alleging the discovery of a cure for HIV and AIDS.

When asked about the possibility of a cure for HIV, Mr. Parajuli said, “There is no cure for HIV infection yet. However, effective antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission so that people with HIV, and those at substantial risk, can enjoy healthy, long and productive lives. As such, everyone on antiretroviral treatment are best served to continue with prescribed medication.”

Zimbabwe’s National efforts supported by the UN, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and TB, and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have sustained antiretroviral treatment to over one million people living with the HIV in Zimbabwe. This has led to the reduction of AIDS related deaths by 63% from 2010 to 2017 and overall better health outcomes.

The discussion emphasized that the claim of a cure could be potentially deadly if people living with HIV were to stop taking their ARV drugs, and if those who have not yet been infected start to engage in risky behaviors. To that end, Mr. Yekeye said, “Approximately 1.4 million people are currently living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 1.1 million of which are on ARV treatment. Emphasis should be on prevention, which is key, while fast tracking ARV treatment to end the HIV pandemic.”

The UN has been supporting Zimbabwe in the country’s commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as stipulated by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Zimbabwe is well on track to achieve this as measured by the 2020 targets of 90-90-90 for treatment. By December 2017, 74% of people living with HIV knew their status; 87% of them were on treatment; and 87% of those on treatment were virally suppressed.

Mr. Parajuli emphasized, “Innovation, discovery and investment to find solutions for any ailments including HIV/AIDS are welcome but must be proven through rigorous scientific process and clearly established national guidelines.”

Any researchers involved in developing possible new treatments for any ailments, including HIV/AIDS must subject their findings to the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) national clinical trial processes and procedures before going out in public.

Zimbabwe has very well-established procedures for clinical trials – the process by which any new medical innovations, including drugs, are rigorously evaluated to determine whether they are safe and effective in the prevention and/or treatment of any ailments.