#PEPFAR15: PEPFAR Scales Up HIV Prevention in Zimbabwe

…More People Initiated On ART

The U.S Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has launched the PEPFAR’s year-long 15th anniversary campaign amidst indications that close to 900 000 people living with HIV received Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) in 2017 through its efforts.

The celebrations will be running under the theme “15 Years of Saving Lives through American Generosity and Partnerships which is aimed at highlighting the tremendous impact, efficiency, and accountability of the U.S. government’s longstanding HIV/AIDS leadership across three administrations. According to PEPFAR, latest trends indicate that death and despair have been overwhelmingly replaced with hope and life.

By Michael Gwarisa

According to the PEPFAR 2017 Fiscal Year (FY) Annual Program Results, a total of 880, 324 adults and children received ART therapy for the period under review while 2, 489, 490 received HIV counselling and testing services and received their tests results during the last 12 months.  Pregnant women with known HIV status including those who tested and received results totalled 278, 284.

A total of 38,971 HIV positive pregnant women received antiretroviral to reduce risk of mother to child transmission (MTCT) during pregnancy and delivery and 450, 551 active beneficiaries served by PEPFAR’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program for children and families affected by children received assistance.

Number of men who were circumcised as part of the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) amounted to 227,299.

More than 90% of the health facilities in Zimbabwe are offering ART services in Zimbabwe as a result of active leadership and political commitment, partnerships between government and the donor community for effective ART programme management   and   implementation.

In December, the United States announced PEPFAR had reached historic highs – preventing more HIV infections and saving more lives than ever before, driven by transparent, accountable, and cost-effective investments.

In an Interview with Ministry of Health Director, TB and HIV Unit Dr Owen Mugurungi said government was grateful for the support rendered by PEPFAR and other development partners towards scaling HIV prevention and treatment.

“We attribute Zimbabwe’s success towards fighting HIV and AIDS to the attitude of the generality of the people of Zimbabwe.

“We acknowledge support that we get from all our partners and their funding is critical. All their efforts have been instrumental in bringing down the HIV scourge. PEPAFAR, Global Fund, USAID among a host of others have been very helpful in the fight against HIV through providing financial assistance and technical support,” said Dr Mgurungi.

Meanwhile, PEPFAR- through its various initiatives- continues to expand and introduce a number of new direct-service delivery (DSD) differentiated models of care to increase access and quality of services received both at the facility and community level. PEPFAR is supporting the scale-up of Community Adolescent Treatment Support groups (CATS) and Community ART Refill Groups (CARGS).

The CATS initiative is being spearheaded by AfricAid an organisation which deals with HIV issues affecting young people and adolescents.

Speaking on PEPFAR’s 15 year Anniversary, PEPFAR Coordinator Mark Troger said “PEPFAR is proud to launch PEPFAR’s year-long 15th anniversary campaign under the theme of “15 Years of Saving Lives through American Generosity and Partnerships.

“The #PEPFAR15 campaign highlights the tremendous impact, efficiency, and accountability of the U.S. government’s longstanding HIV/AIDS leadership across three administrations, made possible by the generosity of the American people. It also celebrates the U.S. government’s strong partnerships with foreign governments, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, multilateral institutions, civil society and faith-based organizations, people living with HIV, and many others to move the global HIV/AIDS epidemic from crisis toward control.”

PEPFAR was initiated by the then US President, George W. Bush in January 2003, and was authorised by the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003, a five year, $15 billion program to fight global HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria for at least 15 hard hit focus countries, and multilateral contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (The Global Fund), as well as UNAIDS.

The focus of the PEPFAR program is to achieve epidemic control, which is defined as the point at which new HIV infections and AIDS related deaths have decreased and new infections have fallen below the number of AIDS-related deaths. In alignment with this UNAIDS global goal, epidemic control can be achieved by ensuring that at least 90 percent of people living with HIV (PLHIV) know their HIV status; 90 percent of those who know their status are adherent to antiretroviral treatment (ART); and 90 percent of those on ART are virally suppressed and no longer spread the virus.

The PEPFAR portfolio covers the entire spectrum of HIV prevention, care and treatment services and has contributed to a reduction in HIV incidence among 15-49 year olds (0.48% in 2017 from an estimated 0.85% in 2009). To reach the aforementioned targets, PEPFAR Zimbabwe has prioritized 40 districts, which represent at least 80% of the HIV burden nationally, to receive a comprehensive package of HIV services tailored by age, sex and risk.

PEPFAR program continues to support the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) to reach treatment saturation by the end of 2018.

According to PEPFAR this will be achieved through a direct service delivery model focused in Harare/Chitungwiza, Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS-Free Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) and Aggressive Saturation districts to identify PLHIV through provider initiated testing and counselling (PITC), targeted outreach, defaulter tracing and adherence counselling, surge Human Resources for Health (HRH) capacity, and community index testing.

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