Free To Shine Initiative To Reduce Childhood HIV By 2030

THE First Lady of Zimbabwe, Amai Auxilia Mnangagwa through the Free to Shine initiative, has pledged to heavily reduce new HIV infections in new born babies by the year 2030.

By Michael Gwarisa

The Free to Shine campaign, which  is an initiative of the wives of African Heads of State who have come forward to end Child AIDS and keeping mothers alive as part of their contribution towards the global goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

In a speech read on her behalf by Director Family Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr Benard Madzima at the National Validation Committee meeting for Dual Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis, the first lady said  the Free to Shine Campaign in Zimbabwe demonstrates the First Lady’s commitment to champion efforts to end childhood AIDS, and engage in high level advocacy to support of the goal of eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

In August 2018, i launched the Free to Shine Campaign for Zimbabwe, an initiative under the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OFLAD) to help end childhood AIDS in Zimbabwe by 2030 and to keep mothers healthy  as per the African Union catalytic framework to end AIDS, TB and Malaria in Africa by 2030.

“It is surely a collective responsibility as Zimbabweans to work towards the realisation of the new generation of children  free of HIV. This is entirely possible and as the Ministry of Health and Child care has services throughout the country, and as a country we wish to protect mothers and children from transmission of Syphilis as well which is an easily treated diseases,” said Maia Mnangagwa.

In implementing the Free to Shine Campaign in Zimbabwe, the first lady says it effectively contributes to the achievement of targets and desired outcomes of the national health strategic plan, and other HIV prevention and control strategies including The Plan for Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis in Zimbabwe 2018-20222.

“It is imperative that i have a strategy to guide the implementation of programs under my office and come up with activities that would address issues around health, HIV and development.

As African First Ladies, we do not just wish to end the AIDS pandemic on the continent, but we also wish to address issues of women and children, gender equality, women and youth empowerment, marginalised populations including people with disabilities focusing also on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cancers to name but a few.”

In January 2018, the then OAFLA in conjunction with the African Union (AU), with support from partners including UNAIDS, WHO, UNAIDS, Abbott, EGPAF, UNICEF, UNDP and AIDS Accountability International launched the “Free to Shine Campaign”. “Free to Shine” is a campaign helping end childhood AIDS in Africa by 2030 and keep mothers alive. The African First Ladies viewed the Free to Shine Campaign as part of their efforts to support global and regional efforts1 on ending new HIV infections and AIDS, including the Start Free Stay Free AIDS Free Framework.

The OAFLAD’s Strategic Plan (2019-2023) focuses on the following priority areas and strategic objectives:

(a) HIV and AIDS: ensure reduction of new HIV infections and reduce HIV and AIDS related mortality;

(b) Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs): reduce premature mortality from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases;

(c) Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child Health (RMNCH): reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality, and enhance adolescents sexual and reproductive health;

(d) Gender Equality, Women and Youth Empowerment: ensure gender equality and women empowerment, and enhance youth empowerment;

(e) Social Security and Protection: ensure well-being of orphans and vulnerable children and older persons (above 70 years), and inclusive and equitable socioeconomic opportunities for persons with disabilities; and

(f) Institutional Capacity Strengthening in order to deliver on OAFLAD’s mandate and enhance organizational visibility and accountability of results.

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