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We’ll widen HIV/Aids funding: President

THE Government has committed to widening the scope for mobilising resources to end AIDS, inequalities and other pandemics and will focus on revitalising high impact HIV prevention interventions.

This was said by President Mnangagwa in his statement to mark World Aids Day yesterday. The day is observed worldwide as an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV supporting people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS.

This year’s theme is “End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics” and comes at a time the world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. President Mnangagwa said the HIV and AIDS pandemic remained one of the major developmental challenges facing the nation.

“I am fully aware that our ambitious pursuit to end AIDS, inequalities and other pandemics will require more resources. To this end, the AIDS Levy remains the primary funding source. Efforts to widen the scope of local resource mobilisation are also being pursued,” he said.

He said access to ownership and control of the means of production remained a key aspect towards reversing social inequalities, which are critical drivers of the spread of HIV and AIDS, and promised that Government would continue to embark on broad-based and inclusive empowerment programmes.

“The judicious exploitation of natural resources as well as the multi-pronged development programmes will undoubtedly accelerate our quest for equalised development, thereby reducing the risk, susceptibility and vulnerability of our communities, to HIV and AIDS.

To achieve this objective, my Government will revitalise and re-energise high impact HIV prevention interventions. The use of precision targeting; sharpening our focus with regards to diagnosing people with HIV through innovative approaches; linking infected people to antiretroviral treatment and supporting them to achieve viral load suppression; all remain key priority areas. We will continue to strengthen integrated approaches targeting pandemics,” said the President.

He said the prevalence of Covid-19, HIV and AIDS as well as the new threats of non-communicable diseases among other health concerns could not be addressed in silos hence the need for an integrated multi-sectoral approach that relies on robust, resilient health systems and an enabling social, economic and policy environment.

Zimbabwe has made significant strides towards reducing new HIV infections and deaths over the years with the incidence rate of HIV declining from 0,48 percent in 2016 to 0,27 percent in 2020, while the prevalence rate dropped from 13,9 percent to 11,8 percent during the same period. Expanded access to antiretroviral therapy increased significantly from 800 000 in 2016 to 1,2 million in 2021.

Director for Zimbabwe HIV and AIDS Activists Union Community Trust (ZHAU-CT) Ms Angeline Chiwetani, said the country had made significant strides in the prevention of new HIV infections. She, however, said there was need for strong better resource domestic mobilisation strategies to ensure sustainability of HIV interventions.

“Though we still have new infections being recorded, it could have been worse if it had not been for interventions by various players. Zimbabwe has done well, but we also need to look at the issue of sustainability in availability of treatment and service.

“At the moment, 85 percent of our health budget is coming from external partners so if they pack up and go, will we be able to manage as a country? Government should commit itself to make sure they look into the issue of domestic funding,” she said.

She said the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on service provision to people living with HIV and called for measures to ensure that this would not happen again should the country go into other Covid-19 lockdowns. Executive director of the Community Working Group on Health Mr Itai Rusike this year’s commemorations were an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity, realising that Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the provision of HIV services, treatment and care putting more people at risk.

“Numerous efforts, investments of resources as well as research and development have led to immense progress in prevention, treatment and care to defeat HIV.

“HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe has been declining over time, but still remains unacceptably high. There is need for greater commitment to health through increased allocation of domestic resources for health and the efficient allocation and use of the resources,” he said.

He said this would help defeat HIV and Covid-19 and prevent further loss of gains towards the critical fight against HIV.

“Efforts to defeat the two diseases must guarantee that everyone, everywhere, has access to the healthcare they need whenever they need it. No one should be left behind because healthcare is a human right whose access should not at all depend on the person’s ability to pay.

“The defeat of HIV as a public health threat and the achievement of sustainable development goal 3 on the health and well-being for all is dependent on how well Covid-19 is tackled,” said Mr Rusike.

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