THE U.S Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), says it will continue to support the new Zimbabwean government in all its efforts to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, HealthTimes can reveal.
By Michael Gwarisa
Despite efforts by certain political sections to discredit the new government that is being led by President Emerson Mnangagwa, the United States government says it recognises the new dispensation and will continue working side by side to ensure Zimbabwe achieves the 90-90-90 targets.
In an interview with HealthTimes, PEPFAR Programs Coordinator, Mark Troger said, “The United States strongly supports a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Zimbabwe. PEPFAR operations continue as planned and official announcements will be made should there be any updates to current programming.
“Zimbabwe is on the cusp of epidemic control and PEPFAR remains committed to going beyond the UNAIDS 90-90-90 framework by ensuring that 95% of people with unknown HIV status are identified; 95% of people with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 95% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy are viral suppressed.”
She added that through the $150 million bilateral PEPFAR support in fiscal year 2018, an accelerated focus will be placed on delivering high-impact HIV services in districts with the highest HIV burden of disease.
He also said PEPFAR had increased operations in 40 districts in Zimbabwe from the previous 36 to 40 this year.
“PEPFAR has already increased operations this year from 36 to 40 districts based on burden and unmet need and will continue to utilize survey data, modelled HIV estimates, and program data to guide implementation.
“We also believe in the power of partnership guided by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) and will continue working with the Government of Zimbabwe, Global Fund, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions on where we can achieve the greatest impact. Of note, PEPFAR supports several districts within Masvingo province: Masvingo, Zaka, Mwenezi, Gutu, Chivi, and Chiredzi,” he said.
Speaking on the issue of donor fatigue, Troger said the fight against HIV require collective effort from government, private sector and the NGO sector.
“It is true that no single entity can finance the burden of HIV in Zimbabwe within the current fiscal space.
“PEPFAR cannot achieve sustained control of the epidemic alone and appeals to other donors and the Government of Zimbabwe to increase rather than decrease investments. Achieving an AIDS-Free generation is a foreseeable reality and PEPFAR remains committed to supporting the Government of Zimbabwe in ending HIV and AIDS,” said Troger.
Meanwhile, PEPFAR was able to reach over 240,420 adolescent girls and young women with services including HIV prevention, testing and counselling, educational subsidies, cash transfers, social asset building, and economic strengthening just to name a few.
PEPFAR also plans to increase access to a number of these services through DREAMS during this calendar year, in addition to, accelerated efforts to increase access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), viral load monitoring and voluntary medical male circumcision.
“A new pilot based on the “Friendship Bench” concept will be implemented to address mental health and adherence issues experienced by adolescent patients living with HIV. Additionally, PEPFAR also plans to expand the availability of HIV self-test kits and to support improved public-sector services for marginalized populations.”
PEPFAR also commended the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Government of Zimbabwe for its leadership, vision, and evidence-based approaches to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS.
“Zimbabwe is the first country to develop an AIDS Levy to generate domestic resources to limit the spread of disease. Zimbabwe takes immediate action to implement new World Health Organization guidelines and with PEPFAR support, initiatives such as “Treat All” have been possible because of strong partnerships.
“As demonstrated by Zimbabwe’s recent population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA), new infections continue to decline and Zimbabwe is now at the last mile. While the work remains far from over, the focus will now be on sustaining achievements and ensuring that sub-populations who remain unaware of their HIV status access treatment immediately.”