By HealthTimes Editor
THE Government of Zimbabwe has thrown its weight behind the National Aids Council (NAC) Media awards in effort to to encourage positive reportage and coverage of AIDS related issues.
Officiating at the inaugural NAC Media Awards in the capital this week, Health and Child Care Minister Hon David Parirenyatwa said the media was one of the key drivers of the widespread awareness and knowledge our people have about HIV and AIDS including the utilisation of prevention and treatment services.
“I therefore would like to salute the editors and journalists here for their dedicated work in keeping the HIV and AIDS story alive and appealing to the public. Reportage on HIV and AIDS has significantly improved over the years from the time when fear invoking articles were the order of the day to the hope filled and educative ones today.
“In addition to this, the media has also been advocates of policy change and development by highlighting weaknesses in our policies and putting in spotlight government’s decisions and practices that may not be in tandem with the objectives of the response,” said minister Parirenyatwa.
He added that the media has been part of the progress government has achieved in the response to HIV and AIDS owing to increased awareness, uptake of prevention services, continued decline in the HIV incidence and prevalence and the uptake of treatment services.
“In fact, these awards come at a time when two recent studies, the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) and the Zimbabwe Population based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA) have confirmed that the burden of the pandemic is decreasing, particularly HIV incidence and prevalence.
“The incidence has dropped from 0.88 percent in 2011 to 0.48 percent in 2016, while the prevalence has also dropped 15 percent to 14 percent during the same period. The treatment coverage under the test and treat approach is now over 68 percent.”
The minister also said Zimbabwe recently hosted an Expert Meeting to Fast Track HIV Prevention implementation in 15 fast track countries. This initiative is part of the agenda to revitalise HIV Prevention in the region so that we can close the tap of new infections.
“This agenda will therefore inform the future of our HIV prevention efforts, with emphasis on key populations and scaling up of high impact HIV prevention services such as HIV Testing, Condoms promotion and distribution, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision, Behaviour Change, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission and Treatment as prevention.
“We therefore hope to see a lot of media coverage of these efforts so that our people are empowered with knowledge and information.”
Meanwhile, NAC Vice Board Chair Beatrice Tonhodzayi said the Media awards were a dream come true for the organisation as they been planning to host the event over years but failing due to circumstances beyond their control.
“Today is probably one of the happiest days of my life as a NAC Board member as we witness the fruition of these media awards, which have been in our plans for a while now. I have always believed that our partnership with the media needed this, as a way of recognising the work done by the media in keeping the HIV and AIDS story alive.
“These awards are an addition to the already functional partnership that we have with the media. Our partnership is anchored on the belief that the media is one of the critical sectors in the national response to HIV and AIDS,” said Tonhodzayi.