THE National AIDS Council (NAC) today donated a consignment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) valued at ZW$1 000 000 in a move that will improve the province’s management of the disease which has already claimed 6 lives and infected 512 others.
By Michael Gwarisa
Speaking at the handover ceremony to officially hand over NAC procured COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Ministry of Health and Child Care and to launch HIV prevention models NAC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Bernard Madzima said the equipment was part of efforts meant to complement prevention measures that have already been adopted by government.
Our country just like the entire community of nations has found itself in the throes of an unmitigating novel pandemic, which has already claimed hundreds of thousands of life globally. Although we have all been unprepared, we are very glad that our Government has taken bold steps to confront this pandemic,” said Dr Madzima.
The PPE equipment that was handed over by NAC today comprise of 300 face shields, KN95 masks, 135 latex gloves and 16827 three ply surgical facemasks and sanitizers. All the 10 provinces were allocated a similar amount to procure PPE as needed by the Provincial Medical Directorate.
He added that personal hygiene including sanitising and wearing of face masks has been scaled up, together with closing of the borders, screening of people and establishment of isolation centres across the country to ensure the spread of infection is controlled.
“Noting the great danger COVID-19 poses to Zimbabwe and its potential to reverse the gains recorded in the response to HIV and overall socio-economic development, the National AIDS Council has embraced the response to this new pandemic and mainstreamed it in the scope of our work. NAC has structures at national, provincial and district levels, which are very active in the dual response to HIV and COVID-19.
“Our participation is also predicated on the fears that people living with HIV could be affected more by COVID-19 given their already compromised immunity. Additionally the coming in of the lockdown could have resulted in treatment disruptions for people on ARVs as movements were only allowed for essential services staff. To mitigate these fears, we deployed our systems and structures to play a pivotal role in the response to COVID-19.”
He also said NAC has since the time the pandemic was recorded in Zimbabwe provided numerous resources to ensure the COVID-19 is won.
“Naturally, such a robust response places a heavy demand on resources to ensure that adequate commodities are in place. Our organisation, the National AIDS Council having led a successful national response to HIV has commendable experience and structures with which to confront pandemics of nature of COVID-19. In this regard, from the very onset of COVID-19, the National AIDS Council dedicated human, material and financial resources to compliment the work of our parent ministry,” he said.
During the course of the lockdown period, NAC produced various short COVID-19 awareness videos and radio clips on national broadcasting and social media.
“In line with our multi-sectoral mandate, our media products feature resource persons from all sectors including traditional leaders, business, and faith based, people living with HIV, youth, media, arts, government and others. Production of these awareness audio-visual materials will continue in partnership with other stakeholders to ensure that the dual awareness of the dual pandemic of HIV and COVID-19 is mainstreamed.
“During lockdown, we also contributed upwards of 6000 litres of diesel, 100,000 awareness posters, over 700 radio slots for information dissemination in various community languages. In addition to this, we maintained standby staff and vehicles in all provinces to deliver medicines to people living with HIV who could not visit health centres due to the lockdown.
“The commodities we are handing over today are meant to protect health care workers against COVID-19 as they deliver services to the public. The country is now recording a surge in new cases and this calls for additional measures to prevent health workers and the public in general. It is our hope that the materials will be used for the purposes they are meant and that our colleagues can be protected.”
Meanwhile, Dr Madzima also took the opportunity to officially launch various HIV prevention models through which NAC seeks to scale up and bring prevention services to communities.
“This is in response to high HIV incidence among specific populations sub groups such as sex workers, prison inmates, artisanal miners and others.
“We adopted these models to bring combination HIV prevention interventions to population sub groups that are at increased risk of HIV infection. Adopted models include the Bortha2Brotha, which focuses on addressing sexual reproductive health needs of adolescent boys and young men. There is also the Peer led approaches model for sex workers and other vulnerable groups such as fishermen, artisanal miners and tertiary students.”
The thrust of this model according to Dr Madzima is to address the HIV and AIDS and sexual reproductive health needs for these vulnerable groups by giving them opportunities to learn from their peers.
There are two models targeting adolescent girls and young women. These are the Sista2sista, which aims to empower adolescent girls and young women with sexual reproductive health services and the modified Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS), focusing on reducing new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aged 10 – 24 years who are vulnerable and at risk of getting HIV infection.
“As you are aware, adolescent girls and young women face a myriad of challenges related to their development such as limited educational opportunities, gender based violence, inter-generational relationships, child marriages, early pregnancies and HIV infection.
“For treatment we have the Community Adolescents Treatment Supporters and the Community ART Refill Groups, which are intended to ensure adherence and optimise treatment outcomes. Evidence shows that these models, if well implemented can help us achieve efficiency and effectiveness in HIV prevention and treatment. They are based on the ecological model, which emphasizes peer education as an approach to information and knowledge sharing and utilisation of available services particularly by hard to reach groups, whose structural dynamics require peers to be effective.”
He added that the models will be implemented across the country to ensure coverage and impact. NAC will work closely with various partners and community based organisations to drive their implementation.