UNAIDS Founding Father Urges Zim To Prioritise Research To End AIDS

UNAIDS founding executive director, Baron Professor Peter Piot who is in the country to discuss various partnership opportunities with the purpose of strengthening research capacity in areas of health and science, has implored Zimbabwe to prioritise research if it is to  defeat the AIDS pandemic.

By Michael Gwarisa

The call comes at the back of an impending adolescent epidemic which has shifted its focus from the adult populace to the adolescents and young people groups, posing a threat to the 2030 targets of eradicating AIDS.

Speaking at a reception ceremony in his honour, Baron Piot said the AIDS pandemic was far from being eradicated and the vision of ending the scourge by 2030 could turn out to be an illusion if proper investment is not put towards research development.

“Education is very important, Universities have to be strengthened because that is also the future. Now it’s time that we also look at tertiary education as part of the development agenda. That means that they should be funded in a way that is commensurate with their importance.

“Zimbabwe just like any other country is going to face an enormous youth population. I mean adolescents, young people come up in huge numbers. Asia has been there before, China is still going to struggle with the human resources and the one child policy. But why were Asian countries so successful, it was because families invested so much in the education of their children it was not so much the state,” said Baron Piot.

He applauded the Zimbabwean government for investing in the education sector and for the government to be on the guard for the population increase in young people as it also means an increase in risky sexual activities.

“This Aids will end by 2030 is just not possible, we don’t have the tools. And we have to shift the study on HIV and  we should not focus exclusively on treatment. We have so many infections every day, on a worldwide basis worldwide we have two million and one million deaths.

“This  again is where adolescents are so important and  when you have increase in young people, the average sex acts per second in the world will go up.”

He also commended Zimbabwe for successfully implementing the AIDS Levy and also noted that Zimbabwe was actually the first country with the hyper endemic HIV that saw a major decline in new infections and also the first one in Southern Africa and that was well documented by the national AIDS program.

“I remember when I what was in UNAIDS I was desperate for some success story. Although I do not think we have got success on AIDS as yet. We got some achievements, and not success, success will be there when AIDS is over and that’s a long way from now,” said Baron Piot.

Baron Piot worked together with the Zimbabwean government to establish the AIDS Levy which has also proved to be a success in the region and even beyond.

“One of the critical issues that we always discuss is that a country in an ideal situation to ensure survival on millions of its citizens should not depend on vote in a foreign parliament or a decision somewhere else.

“Thanks to the generality of tax payers in Zimbabwe that millions of people are alive now. Zimbabwe was the first country in Africa together with Senegal to contribute locally to fund treatment and prevention of HIV.”

He applauded the Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) for Championing research in the fields of health, sciences and technology in Zimbabwe.

BRTI Director General, Dr Shungu Munyati said Baron Piot’s visit to Zimbabwe was really to see what could be done about adolescent’s health and HIV.

“Professor Piot is now the director London of the School Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,As BRTI, we have been working with a lot of colleagues from the London School of hygiene. We work hand in hand with medical research council. We ensure that all the research that has been done and up to standard,” she said.

Meanwhile, Health and Child Care minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa who was also guest of honor at the event said Baron Piot’s work in Zimbabwe was very evident and has worked tirelessly to ensure Zimbabwe makes strides towards reducing the HIV scourge.

“We had very huge, sharp decline in HIV, as we speak, we have got 1.2 million people on Anti retro viral therapy. Our biggest weakness at that time was that we had no strong pediatric formulations.

“We want a lot of research here, including a lot of traditional medicine research. Traditional medicine in frowned upon, but we want to done in a systematic manner. It’s not just an issue of getting funding but rather of establishing research which is sustainable,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.





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