In just over three years, Mozambique has increased the number of HIV-positive people receiving the life-prolonging anti-retroviral therapy by over 1,500 per cent.
Speaking on Tuesday in New York at the United Nations General Assembly high level meeting on HIV and AIDS, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza said whereas in January 2005 just 6,000 people had been receiving anti-retroviral drugs, by April this year the number had risen to over 100,000.
The number of health units providing antiretroviral treatment, he added, had risen to 213, compared with just 21 in 2004. That meant the treatment was now available in all of Mozambique’s 128 districts.
There has been similar progress in the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child, a treatment which is now available in every district.
Nonetheless, Guebuza insisted that the key to fighting the AIDS epidemic must lie in prevention.
Among the measures Mozambique had taken, he said, was the presidential initiative on HIV/AIDS launched in February 2006, which consisted in Guebuza holding separate meetings on the epidemic and how to fight it with women, religious leaders, business people, community leaders and the youth.
This initiative was replicated at provincial and district levels, and in public and private institutions.
Though one cannot categorically establish a cause-effect relationship between th is initiative and a change of attitude among people in Mozambique, Guebuza said he believed there had been progress in the way people faced the pandemic.
He noted that a growing number of people now speak openly about AIDS and start facing it more as a chronic disease, rather than a death sentence.
The incidence of HIV infection in Mozambique appears to have stabilized at aroun d 16 per cent of adults aged 15 to 49. An increasing number of people are coming voluntarily to the testing and counselling centres and are less ashamed of using the treatment services in the health units, the President said.
Guebuza announced that the government has set up a task force, headed by Health Minister Ivo Garrido to study and produce recommendations by the end of this month on the best ways to render prevention strategies even more effective.
"It is our expectation that this group will shed more light on what we can do to revert the current scenario," said Guebuza.