By Michael Gwarisa
THE U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) has availed a US$20 million grant towards HIV treatment, care, and support services for youths in particular those living with HIV.
The grant is being awarded to a Zimbabwean private voluntary organization, Africaid who are spearheading the Zvandiri model which is targeted at young people who were born HIV positive.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, USAID/Zimbabwe Mission Director Stephanie Funk said “USAID is proud to partner with Africaid to help Zimbabwean children and adolescents live longer, healthier lives. The United States stands with the people of Zimbabwe in an effort to end the HIV epidemic.”
The US$20 mln is aimed at scaling up and expand Africaid’s Zvandiri model for five years from 2017 to 2022 in 22 priority districts in Zimbabwe.
The Zvandiri model seeks to improve children’s adolescents’ and young people’s experience of HIV testing services, diagnosis, linkage and care, disclosure, treatment access, adherence, and reaction in HIV care.
This will be achieved through a combination of community outreach, child and work closely with health facilities, families and communities to respond to the unique needs of young people living with HIV.
Africaid executive director Nocola Willis said Afrcaid was thrilled to receive the grant from USAID to scale up the Zvandiri model in partnership with ministries of health, education, public service, labor and social welfare among a host of others.
According to the 2015 Ministry of Health and Child Care HIV estimates, in Zimbabwe approximately 77,000 children and 69, 000 adolescents are living with HIV. Despite significant advances in access to treatment and decline in deaths due to HIV, HIV related mortality among children and adolescents in Zimbabwe remains high.
HIV is one of the leading causes of mortality in children under five and accounts for 21 percent deaths in Zimbabwe. More than 3, 400 children and 1, 500 adolescents died of HIV-related conditions in 2015.
The U.S President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through USAID and the Centres for Dieses Control and Prevention (CDC), has provided nearly Us$1 billion to Zimbabwe over the last decade for HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. PEPFAR has contributed to major successes in the fight against HIV in Zimbabwe.
The annual number of HIV -related deaths has declined 70 percent since 2006. The number of new HIV infections has decreased by 67 percent since 2003.
Meanwhile, officiating at the signing ceremony, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said Zimbabwe has made significant strides in diagnostics, treatment and care which have transformed the prognosis for children and adolescents with HIV in Zimbabwe.
“80 percent of children and adolescents with HIV are now on Antiretroviral therapy. But we need to be aware that studies in Zimbabwe have shown that up to 47 percent of adolescents on ART have a viral load > 1000 copies/ ml (in one study in Mash Central).
“Multi Drug resistance among adolescents with HIV are at risk of poor mental health and that this correlates with poor adherence. Recent work by Zvandiri has found that disability to be an increasing concern in children and adolescents with HIV. Other work has found that young mothers with HIV face significant challenges, threatening the success of PMTCT and clinical and psychological outcomes in their children,” said Minister Parirenyatwa.