Zim Launches Comprehensive HIV Communication Strategy

THE Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in collaboration with partners have launched the comprehensive national HIV communication strategy for Zimbabwe 2019-2025, which will see HIV programing and interventions being tailor-made in line with the needs of specific HIV high risk groups.

By Michael Gwarisa

Dr Moyo flanked by HIV donor partners and MoHCC officials at the launch of the Health Communication strategy

Officiating at the launch ceremony, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo said the new HIV comprehensive strategy would aid in reducing the high HIV burden bedeviling the country through cultivating behavior change amongst various populations and high risk groups.

The questions that my ministry has posed  all along has been, what do we need to do differently? who do we need to focus on to make an impact so that we meet our goal of ending AIDS by 2030? What the team found to be one of the key answer was the area of social behavior change communication.

“They identified this as an area that needed strengthening and further investment. The first step was to bring all our different HIV prevention, treatment and care program into one entity and in so doing began the journey of developing the first ever Comprehensive National HIV Communication Strategy,” said Dr Moyo.

He added that the MoHCC and partners have also developed the latest evidence based public health communication models such as Human Centered Design (HCD) approaches and behavioral economics. The partners include the Population Services International (PSI), PEPFAR, UNICEF, CHAI, PZAT AIDS Trust, I-TECH and USAID.

“Some of the HCDs include persona profiling, empathy mapping and journey mapping. By putting the human at the centre of the program, the process has helpd to uncover a more realistic portrayal of how and when people encounter interlinking HIV prevention, treatment and Care programs.

“This approach helps us not to assume we know how people feel, act or even think. Through the journey mapping for example, we have been able to try and track and trace how people think, feel act and thereby identify what barriers they face and the motivations that influence adoption of behavior.”

He also said the strategy will be focusing on specific population groups to ensure that the current HIV scourge is addressed. These populations include sex workers, Men who have sex with men (MSM), Lesbians, disabled groups, churches among other groups.

Some members from the disability community at the launch of the Health Communication strategy

The minister also applauded partners for standing by Zimbabwe in the fight against the HIV and AIDS scourge.

“I am reliably informed that it has taken a considerable amount of time to develop this blueprint but I believe that it has been worth the wait. My ministry has been at the helm of addressing HIV and AIDS in this nation from the time the first case was detected.

“We have been supported by our partners to scale up our interventions to make sure that we reduce new HIV infections and end AIDS by 2030. At a national scale, we have over the years recorded significant milestones that include bringing down the HIV prevalence rate from 29% in 1999 to the current 13.7% amongst the adult population,” said Dr Moyo.

He added that the HIV incidence rate or the number of new infections has gone down from 1.42% in 2011 to o.48% in 2016.

“While this is all exciting, we cannot afford to fold our hands and take a break, we still have one of the highest prevalence rate in the world and the war is not won yet. We still have to literally roll up our sleeves and get back to the trenches and ensure we collectively end AIDS by 2030.

“We still have geographical pockets in our nation where new infections are still on the rise. We have groups of people where new infections are happening. We have population groups of those living with HIV who are stopping or not adhering to their medication that is the ARVs which if not taken consistently may lead to premature death or development of drug resistance which may require expensive second line and third line ARVs.”

Dr Tsitsi Apollo Deputy Director, HIV/AIDS and STIs in the MoHCC at the launch of the Health Communication strategy

Meanwhile, Deputy Director, HIV/AIDS and STIs in the MoHCC, Dr Tsitsi Apollo said there was need for an integrated approach in HIV and AIDS programing.

We can’t have the same village health worker visiting or knocking on the people’s doors with different hats, with different messages and yet they are dealing with the same individuals. It is important for us to be able to knock once and offer a comprehensive package of communication messages based on their needs, based on their life’s journey.

“So that is really the essence of this strategy. So this strategy is a guiding framework for implementing an integrated communications, interventions and activities. It is imporntant to note that it recognises the importance of a holistic approach to proving an integrated communication package and it fosters linkages between HIV programs,” said Dr Apollo.

Related posts

Leave a Comment