By Michael Gwarisa
The move comes at a time Zimbabwe is grappling with a Non Communicable Diseases burden which have become a silent but leading killer to people living with HIV.
Speaking during the official launch ceremony last night, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa said the tournament comes at a time when our nation is grappling with a swelling epidemic of non-communicable diseases, which include cancer, diabetes, kidneys, heart and other ailments.
“As you are aware, we have recorded tremendous progress in reversing the propensity of HIV and AIDS, and have now halved the HIV incidence from 0.88% in 2011 to 0.48% in 2016, with the outlook propitious for even a lower incidence by 2018. The number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy has also increased beyond one million, and we are very proud that our people are living longer with HIV.
“As a consequence of people living longer with HIV due to ART, they are now susceptible to non-communicable diseases especially cancer, which kills over 8.8 million people per year globally. In Zimbabwe, over 4000 new cases of cancer are recorded each year, with men highly affected by Kaposi sarcoma, prostate, oesophagus and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in that order,” said Minister Parirenyatwa.
He added that women were the most affected by cancers and cervical cancer, breast cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, and others in that order were the most common. Cervical cancer alone accounts for 35% of all cancers in Zimbabwe.
“In view of the fact that 60% of new cancer cases are associated with HIV, I decided that the National AIDS Council should play a central role in the response to cancer, particularly in areas of awareness, prevention, screening and providing for treatment.
“The decision to direct NAC to do this has also been informed by the need to avoid creation of parallel structures, which often times lead to duplication of roles and leakages of resources. You will agree with me that NAC also has ubiquitous and effective structures that we could rely on to effectively address cancer.”
NAC is currently facilitating HIV and cancer public awareness events where they are also offering cancer services. Is reported that thousands of women who attend these events are receiving free cancer screening and linkages to care, but there was still a challenge with screening for men, especially prostate cancer. The challenge is largely related to awareness and change of attitudes as a result of related stigma.
Meanwhile, Sports and Recreation Minster, Makhosini Hlongwane who also graced the occasion applauded the move by NAC to integrate sports in HIV and cancer related programs.
“I feel highly honoured to have been invited to be part of this very exciting health and sporting initiative, underscoring the interconnectedness of these two phenomenons in our lives. Sport is health and health is sport!
“It is indeed without a doubt that non-communicable diseases and cancer in particular are becoming major threats to our people, calling for concerted efforts – medical, physical, social and otherwise to combat these diseases. The 2nd at the NAC HIV and Cancer Prevention Drive Pro-Am Golf Tournament whose unveiling we are witnessing today resonates with my Ministry’s thrust to promote sport and play as a strategy to achieve wellbeing among our people. In addition to other causative and worsening agents, the majority of non-communicable diseases are related to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles,” said Minister Hlongwane.
He added that engaging in physical sports promotes fitness, health and wellness among all people that can do so.
NAC Chief Excutive Officer Mr Tapiwa Magure said the event was a directive from the minister who highlited the need to integrate sport in HIV and cancer programs.
“Following a directive by the Minister of Health and Child Care, we as NAC have already integra cancer in our work. Annually, we financially support the procurement of laboratory diagnostic reagents and anticancer drugs worth over US$1 million per year for the past three years. Recently we also procured a Mammogram for Mpilo Hospital, which was handed over last week by the Minister of Health and Child Care.
“Cancer education and screening are now part of most of NAC’s HIV public sensitisation and awareness programmes. Screening of cervical cancer is being offered to thousands of women, who turn up at NAC facilitated music and sport galas, where combination HIV prevention is also offered,” said Magure.
NAC has already rolled out massive HIV and cancer awareness messages promoting uptake of testing and screening services. The corporates that have partnered us are also reaping rewards through advertising space on our programmes.