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‘Govt committed to HIV, pandemics response’

BY STYLE REPORTER

President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the response to HIV and Aids as well as other pandemics needs the involvement of all fronts.

The president said this in his state of the nation address on the eve of World Aids Day
commemorations last Tuesday.

World Aids Day was commemorated in Chinhoyi last Wednesday under the theme End
pandemics, End inequalities, End Aids.

President Mnangagwa said the theme was in sync with government’s thrust to address health inequalities and tackle social determinants.

He said to achieve this there was need to place resilient health systems.
“In line with our theme, we have learnt a critical lesson that both the COVID-19 and AIDS as well as other pandemics, including the new threats of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, blood pressure and others, cannot be addressed in silos but through an
integrated approach that relies on robust and resilient health systems and an enabling policy, social and economic environment that also pays attention to people’s rights,” President Mnangagwa said.

“To this end, I am glad that my government has pursued reforms in the health sector and scaled up renovation and construction of new clinics across the country to ensure universal health coverage.

“We are commemorating the World AIDS Day amid tremendous progress we have recorded
over the course of the year, largely animated by our achievement of the 90-90-90 targets by 2020, where in 90% of all people living with HIV should be know their status, 90% of people who know their status should be on treatment and 90% of those on treatment should be virally suppressed.

“In this regard, Zimbabwe has managed to reduce the HIV incidence rate from 0,48% in 2016 to 0,27% in 2020, while the prevalence has dropped from 13,9% to 11,8% during the same period.

At the same time, we have expanded access to Antiretroviral Therapy from 800 000 in 2016 to 1,2 million in 2021.

According to the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Survey and the Global AIDS
Monitoring Report, Zimbabwe has achieved these90-90-90 targets, which has given the country a solid basis to pursue the 95-95-95 targets by 2025.

“I am quite confident that we can once again summon our resilience and overcome the
challenges to achieve epidemic and end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 in line with
Sustainable Development Goals, our national strategic plan and the National Development
Strategy 1,” he said.

The President said access to treatment and other essential services for people living with HIV as well as HIV prevention services were significantly curtailed during the period of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Health deputy minister John Mangwiro in a speech that he read on behalf of Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga during World Aids Day commemorations in Chinhoyi last Wednesday echoed the President’s sentiments.

“In strengthening the response to Covid-19, we are not negating HIV and other pandemics,
including non-communicable diseases, as our theme suggests,” Chiwenga said.

“The recent emergence of Covid-19 has exposed our systems and I am happy that government is prioritising the whole health delivery system for revamping, so that we can better deal with pandemics, which tend to spread faster and kill more people if the health delivery sector is weakened.

“In this regard, my ministry is spearheading the construction of 32 new hospitals, refurbishing and equipping old ones to ensure that all our people access modern healthcare services, and that all inequalities in access are shattered.”

Chiwenga said despite the Covid-19-induced disruptions to HIV service delivery in 2020, the country’s response to HIV was on the rebound.

“I am very pleased with the trajectory of new HIV infections, which shows a continued decline for all age groups over the years, from 40 900 to 24 900 between 2016 and 2020,” he said National Aids Council CEO Bernard Madzima said this year’s commemoration were so special as they coincided with the Aids board’s 20 th anniversary.

“NAC has been part of Zimbabwe’s HIV story – which as you all know started very sad and grim, but slowly has morphed into a tale of hope and success,” Madzima said.

Madzima said going forward, NAC and its partners will remain focused on achieving the 95-95-95 targets by 2025 by scaling up HIV programmes and transition the HIV response into a sustainable phase.

“We will focus on taking innovative HIV prevention interventions to specific populations and
locations where more new infections continue to occur, particularly among adolescent girls and young women; men who have sex with men, sex workers, mobile workers and others while placing emphasis on respecting their rights including those of people living with HIV,” he said.

“We will scale up provision to ART through differentiated care approaches to optimize
outcomes of treatment, while strengthening services to end stigma and discrimination.
“In line with our theme, this will include greater focus on COVID-19 and other pandemics that we should concurrently end.

“We will also pay attention to strengthening our leadership to improve the efficiency and
effectiveness of coordination structures and processes, establishing a bi-annual ZNASP joint
review and supervision platform to enhance accountability.”

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