Fast Track Cities: Manzini City’s Renewed Commitment To End HIV By 2030
The City of Manzini has renewed its commitment to the fight against HIV and AIDS. The city has joined over 300 cities globally that are already part of the Fast-Track Cities global campaign which advocates for cities to strengthen their response and strive towards ending the HIV epidemic by the year 2030.
Fast-track cities is a project that began in 2014 after a declaration made in Paris by the United Nations to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020 through pursuing the 90-90-90 global targets at that time. This was followed by another declaration in 2021 with the 95-95-95 global targets which seek to ensure that 95% of people living with HIV know their status, 95% of people who know their HIV status are on treatment and that 95% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads. During the official launch of the Eswatini chapter of the Fast Track Cities project, which is funded by the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS), Manzini Mayor His Lordship Quinton Els made seven bold commitments towards the above-mentioned Fast Track Cities objective. The Mayor’s declaration was witnessed by a number of stakeholders including the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, UNAIDS, National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), Ministry of Health and the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC). The following are the commitments;
- COMMITMENT 1: WE WILL END HIV EPIDEMIC IN MANZINI BY 2030
We commit to achieving and sustaining the 95-95-95 and other Fast-Track Cities targets; which will put us firmly on the path to ending the HIV, TB, and viral hepatitis epidemics by 2030. We commit to providing sustained access to quality HIV testing, treatment and prevention services.
- COMMITMENT 2: WE WILL PUT PEOPLE AT THE CENTRE OF EVERYTHING WE DO
We will focus our efforts on all people who are vulnerable to HIV, TB, viral hepatitis and other diseases.
- COMMITMENT 3: WE WILL ADDRESS THE CAUSES OF RISK, VULNERABILITY AND TRANSMISSION
We will use all means, including municipal ordinances, policies and programmes, to address factors that make people vulnerable to HIV and other diseases.
- COMMITMENT 4: WE WILL USE OUR HIV RESPONSE FOR POSITIVE SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
Our leadership will leverage innovative social transformation to build societies that are equitable, inclusive, responsive, resilient and sustainable. We will integrate health and social programmes to improve the delivery of services, including for HIV, TB, viral hepatitis and other diseases.
- COMMITMENT 5: WE WILL BUILD AND ACCELERATE AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE THAT REFLECTS LOCAL NEEDS
We will develop and promote services that are innovative, safe, accessible, equitable and free from stigma and discrimination. We will encourage and foster community leadership to build demand for, and to deliver, quality services that are responsive to local needs.
- COMMITMENT 6: WE WILL MOBILIZE RESOURCES FOR INTEGRATED PUBLIC HEALTH AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Investing in the HIV response together with a strong commitment to public health and sustainable development is a sound investment in the future of our city; that will yield increased productivity, shared prosperity and the overall well-being of our citizens.
- COMMITMENT 7: WE WILL UNITE AS LEADERS
We commit to develop an action plan to guide our city’s Fast-Track efforts, embrace transparent use of data to hold ourselves accountable and join a network of cities and municipalities to make the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities a reality.
….QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM FAST TRACK CITIES PROJECT LAUNCH
A number of stakeholders shared a few remarks during the official launch of the Eswatini chapter of Fast Track Cities which was held last Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Mbabane. The following are some of the quotable quotes from the various speakers;
PRINCE SIMELANE – MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (REPRESENTED BY MR MARTIN DLAMINI, UNDER SECRETARY):
- “The urban space is worse than the rural areas in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Municipalities can, therefore, not afford to take the backseat in the issue of this epidemic. Issues of poverty are existent in cities, particularly in the informal settlements; which puts adolescent girls and young women at the risk of being preyed on by adult males. As a Ministry, and on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, we are committed to ensuring that we push forward the HIV eradication agenda until we succeed in achieving zero new HIV infections in the Kingdom of Eswatini by 2030 at the latest”.
KHANYA MABUZA: NERCHA DIRECTOR
- “Social protection is key if we are to eradicate HIV and AIDS. Social protection entails the provision of basic necessities for adolescent girls and young women. Lack of these basic necessities, such as roll-ons, sanitary pads, etc, makes adolescents and young women to be vulnerable to sexual abuse by adult males. Lack of social protection contributes to the number of HIV positive females being extremely high than that of males. Adult males are the ones who infect young girls with HIV. All they do is provide them with these basic necessities. I am aware that social protection can be very expensive but the fact is that it is required if we are to further suppress the spread of HIV and achieve our 2030 goal”.
- “If we do not manage HIV infection in cities we are wasting time. There is a need to drill further down and confront the HIV challenge at the city level, ward level and even go further down to the household level”.
DR VUSI MAGAGULA – DIRECTOR HEALTH SERVICES:
- “Addressing the issues of key populations is critical in the cities. We need to accelerate the urban population towards a trajectory that aims at putting HIV infections at zero”.
ROSE CRAIGE – UNAIDS COUNTRY DIRECTOR:
- “It is good to know that the Kingdom of Eswatini has already achieved the 95-95-95 HIV and AIDS target. However, it is not enough to look at the picture only from a national perspective. We need to zero-in and find out where we stand in the urban areas. We need to make an effort to push the HIV infection rate further down as much as possible even at the city and community level. We need to ensure that we leave no one behind. The Fast Track Cities initiative is all about ensuring that no one is left behind”.
LUNGILE DLAMINI – MUNICIPAL COUNCIL OF MANZINI CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
- “This massive project came at the right time. If truth be told, the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted our great strides as a country in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It is time we pick-up the pieces and soldier on. What excites us the most is that this project enhances our cities’ contribution to realisation of three global goals; and that is the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) number 3 (which advocates for good health and wellbeing), number 11 (which calls for sustainable cities and communities) and number 17 (which calls for creation of partnerships for the goals)”.
“Part of the mandate of municipalities in the country is to create an urban environment that promotes improvement in the quality of life amongst citizens. As a result; making cities liveable and healthy remains top of our agenda in all our strategic planning and integrated development mechanisms. We assure the National Government (our parent Ministry in particular), the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) and all the other partners that we shall do everything in our ability to ensure that this project becomes the desired success. What is key for us is to ensure that the citizens that we serve feel the positive impact of this project. We would like to take this opportunity to express our most sincere appreciation to the National Government, UNAIDS and all other partners for trusting us with this project. Indeed we shall not disappoint”.