Zim receives funds to curb HIV/Aids

ZIMBABWE is set to get receive additional funding from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), to begin implementing the new World Health Organisation guidelines, amid concerns that discrimination of key populations was going to jeopardise efforts to combat Aids by 2030.

Pepfar, which is a major HIV and Aids partner in Zimbabwe as well as major funder of the Global fund, has set aside additional funds to give to countries who would have successfully applied for the grant and Zimbabwe has been marked as one of the deserving countries.

Speaking at the 18th International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (Icasa) in Harare this week, US Global Aids director Deborah Birx said Zimbabwe was allocated additional funding for male circumcision and, for the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-free, Mentored, and Safe women (Dreams) campaign to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries
“We anticipated the guidelines release at this meeting and we had sent notifications to countries just about last month that there is about $150 million available immediately for countries to apply.
“Zimbabwe is certainly one of the Dreams countries and so Zimbabwe has received Dreams money to prevent new infections in young women, they received additional funding to advance voluntary male circumcision. We also gave Zimbabwe other additional funds,” Birx said.

Under the new guidelines, every person living with HIV is supposed to get Anti-Retroviral Treatment and three to six months’ supply of drugs, however, there have been concerns over how countries already struggling to meet the demand, will manage to support additional people.

There are an estimated 1,5 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe and Pepfar has so far contributed about $65 billion towards the HIV and Aids campaign as direct funding to countries as well as through the Global Fund. This is the third year in succession that the powerhouse has given Zimbabwe $95 million to fund HIV and Aids programmes in accordance with the Country Operational Plan (Cop) for 2016 and in alignment to the Zimbabwe National Strategic Plan (ZNASP) for 2011 to 2015 and the UNAids Fast Track Strategy.

With Zimbabwe being one of the countries heavily depended on donor funding with about 80 percent, Birx said countries needed to start thinking about investing in combating HIV in their national budgets.

According to the United States embassy 160 000 people had access to Anti-Retroviral drugs and receiving HIV services and care as a result of Pepfar’s support.
“We have been encouraged when we see how South Africa is investing in the pandemic, and we look at what Botswana and Namibia are doing to invest in the pandemic.

“So there are countries on the continent who are applying their resources to the pandemic, we think more and more countries should think of investing in the pandemic.

“I think we have to do a better job and think economically, some ministers of Finance see this as a smart investment which we believe as it affects productivity and investment and the health welfare of citizens is critical for democracy. It will also require policy changes to make sure our dollars go to health,” said Birx.
She however, called for the non-discrimination of the Lesbians Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (lgbt) community, which is rampant among African countries, Zimbabwe included.
“If we are gonna (sic) put a public health response in fighting HIV, there is no space for discrimination, there is no space for human rights violation, there is no space for to be more accepting of one over another.  we should as a global community do everything possible to make sure that we have a comprehensive public health response that recognises the rights of everyone we as a community has to accept everyone and make sure they have access to public health,” Birx said.

“The reason we were excited about coming to Icasa is his tagline about  “Linking Leadership, Science and Human Rights”, it says very clearly that the essential part of human rights is an essential component and we understand individual human rights particularly those of the in the lgbt communities are being observed.

“We have to understand that the (discrimination) happens at a community and clinical level, which means the healthcare providers have to provide an environment where all are accepted.”

This comes as there have been reports of misunderstanding between the Zimbabwean customs authority and the lgbt community with getting their material into the country.—Bridget Mananavire

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