WHO Eritrea joined the World in commemorating World AIDS Day 2022 under the theme “Equalize” at Orotta Conference Hall in Asmara on 1st December 2022.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day sought to highlight ongoing inequalities holding back the end of HIV/AIDS and for countries to address these inequalities.
The national commemoration of World AIDS Day was attended by MOH staff, UN Agencies, and civil organizations, including the National Union of Eritrean Women representatives; National Union of Youth and Students representatives, People living with HIV/AIDS and Students
Giving the key address on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Sister Nighisty Tesfamichael, Head of the National HIV/AIDS control program said that Eritrea had made considerable progress towards reducing the number of people living with HIV/AIDS though the country still has several cases of People living with HIV. She called for enhanced collaboration and continual work between MOH and health partners to prevent the further spread of the disease as one of the strategies to achieve the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS (EMTCT). She highlighted that Eritrea has embarked on a systematic journey to validate its progress to achieve EMTCT using WHO guidelines.
Sister Nighisty Tesfamichael further indicated that Eritrea’s outstanding success in the fight against the HIV / AIDS epidemic has to be documented and shared good practice with other countries. She called on all the participants to work harder to maintain the achievement and to go far to end HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eritrea.
The country has achieved consistently high coverage of ANC (above 95%) and HIV testing in pregnant women (above 95%) between 2019 and 2021. The HIV treatment coverage in HIV-positive women was also above 95% in the same reporting period. The population case rate due to vertical transmission per 100 000 live births and the HIV MTCT rate has been zero (0) between 2019 and 2021 in the country with breastfeeding. The number of HIV-exposed infants tested positive at 18 months (Final Infant Diagnosis) born from HIV-positive women has been decreasing from 1 in 2019 to 1 in 2020 and zero in 2021.
Recently, the country established a National Validation Committee (NVC) to provide oversight in preparing for the validation process of EMTCT. Furthermore, four thematic technical working groups (data, programs, laboratory and gender equality, human rights and community engagement) have also been established and are operational and reporting to the NVC. The NVC played a critical in the pre-validation assessment and has identified some gaps that the country must close in order to be validated. UN and other development partners should therefore work closely with the Ministry of Health to close the identified gaps.
UNAIDS Representative for Eritrea, Poirier Thérèse highlighted the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the HIV/AIDS response at the national and local levels. She congratulated Eritrea on the achievements registered so far and affirm that Eritrea’s continued effort to achieve an HIV Free Generation and end HIV/AIDS transmission from mother to child by 2030, will become a reality very soon. “Let us keep joining our efforts to make Eritrea free from HIV and please keep in mind that: to keep everyone safe, to protect everyone’s health, we must rise, we must equalize for all people!” She added.
The commemoration involved different educational and entertaining activities; some of it was general knowledge competitions among students. Testimonials from people living with HIV/AIDS were also delivered which received a big appreciation from the participants.
World AIDS Day takes place on 1 December each year. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.