GOVERNMENT recently appointed Dr Bernard Madzima as the National Aids Council’s (NAC) new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) after the organisation had gone for a year and three months without anyone at its helm.
Before his appointment, Dr Madzima served as Director in the Family Health department under the ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) for eight years, where he coordinated the country’s sexual and reproductive health, the family planning, as well as the cervical cancer programs.
To ensure the organisation moves forward, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo also appointed a new NAC board composed of individuals from various fields of expertise such as academia, People Living with HIV, civil society, media, the private and pubic sector.
In the previous years, NAC has been been facing numerous challenges which include lack of foreign currency to procure life saving Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for HIV clients amongst a host of other woes. With the coming in of a new board and CEO, stakeholders in the HIV sector are dying to see change happening at the speed of lightning. Only time will tell if the new team has what it takes to drive and coordinate the multi sectoral response to HIV and AIDS.
To get an insight on the vision and plans for the National AIDS Council (NAC), our Editor Michael Gwarisa (M.G) spoke at length to the new NAC CEO, Dr Madzima who expressed confidence and called for coordination between all sectors involved in the HIV fight.
MG: Let me start by congratulating you on your on your recent appointment as the National AIDS Council (NAC) CEO. Could you maybe just start by telling us how you feel about this appointment?
Dr Madzima: I am the new CEO of the National Aids Council with effect from April 14, 2020 and the post had been vacant since January 2019. Coming as the new CEO, I am very excited and I am looking forward to the new assignment of leading the Zimbabwe multi sectoral response of HIV and AIDS.
MG: What are your expectations as well as your long term vision for the National Aids Council?
Dr Madzima: As you know, we are guided by the United Nations (UN) goals for eliminating and ending AIDS related deaths by 2030, eliminating stigma by 2030 and eliminating new infections by 2030. That’s our vision and and aim but we also have a target as per the Zimbabwe National AIDS strategic plan 2020-2025. We are aiming to achieve the 95-95-95 where 95% of people living with HIV know their status, 95% are on HIV treatment and therapy and 95% have viral load suppressed, so that is what guides us.
MG: Which areas do you think need urgent attention at the organisation to ensure the organisation to ensure moves forward?
Dr Madzima: We also have our annual plans which look at the various thematic areas of prevention and control, treatment and care , we also have health promotion and risk communication. We have various other things like logistics ensuring that there is a proper supply chain management system in place to ensure that clients get their medications so that’s what is going to guide us.
MG: Now that government has appointed a new board, how is this likely to drive the organisation?
Dr Madzima: Coming in as the CEO and with new board as well, we have an opportunity to strengthen areas which might have weakened or which needs strengthening.
MG: You have vast experience in family health and sexual reproductive health management. How do you intend to marry your experience with the new task?
Dr Madzima: I am also happy that I coming in from the family health where I was responsible for sexual and reproductive health, the family planning program and the cervical cancer program which I think can tie in nicely with the HIV program because at the end of the day it’s the same client we are working with. With my experience from the ministry of health, where I was director for eight years, I am hoping it will come in handy and strengthen the program.
MG: NAC has reputation issue among the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the society at large , what plans do you have to ensure the organisation regains its former good image?
Dr Madzima: As you know, the NAC mandate is really to coordinate the multi sectoral response. This includes traditional leaders, churches, it includes young people, it includes even the security forces it includes everyone. It’s a multi sectoral response, our mandate is to coordinate that multi sectoral response. I am looking forward to working with the civil society, to working with faith based orgaisations, working with anyone who is interested in making sure that we achieve the objectives I alluded to. There is a board in place now which we will work together to make sure that we achieve the objectives.
MG: Your appointment also comes in at a time the country is battling a COVID-19 pandemic. Considering that people living with HIV are at high risk due to underlying health conditions, what plans have you put in place for people living with HIV to ensure they access services during the lockdown period?
Dr Madzima: We are now in the era of COVID-19 which is another pandemic. We were already dealing with a pandemic and i think we have a comparative advantage in the structures that we have in dealing with pandemics notably, our clients we don’t want to be set back in terms of their programs. So we are saying in that environment of COVID-19, we don’t want the program of HIV to go backward. For example if a person is going to be tested for COVID-19, they should also if they have not been tested for HIV, the facilities should cater for that so that they also get tested for HIV. If the health facilities should actually ensure that HIV clients get a supply which may be more than two three moths so that we reduce the travel which happens when clients go to facilities to collect medication. All these things have to tie in and assist because we don’t want to solve another problem and then create another problem in the same vein.
MG: How else is NAC assisting the national COVID-19 response?
Dr Madziam: This is what we are doing, we are working closely with the MoHCC, we have been supporting the various response committees the case management committees we are there, the risk management committees we are there we are also sending out messages and we are also supplying commodities like PPEs. The gene expert machines which are used for viral load testing are also being used for COVID-19 tetsing. Our structures are there in place to respond to the ongoing pandemic.