NATIONAL AIDS Council Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Benard Madzima has indicated that the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living With HIV (ZNNP+) was the right platform through which the People Living With HIV (PLHIV) sector should be coordinated.
By Michael Gwarisa
His response comes hot on the heels of a letter that has since gone viral on social media and was penned by HIV activist and National AIDS Council (NAC) board member, Mrs Tendayi Westerhof where she expressed displeasure in the manner the NAC board was granting the ZNNP+ powers to coordinate the PLHIV sector as well as a leading role in facilitating the Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV (MIPA) forum that kicked off in Masvingo today.
In an interview with HealthTimes, Dr Madzima said there was nothing sinister in ZNNP+ coordinating or taking a leading role with regards to issues affecting the PLHIV sector including the MIPA forum.
To me the ZNNP+ is the right organisation to lead if there is any meeting which involves people living with HIV in Zimbabwe. It is the same with organisations that fall under the Zimbabwe AIDS Network (ZAN) and organsaitions which fall under ZIPSHOW and they all work with NAC so for me really, I don’t see any problem there.
“I however saw that communication which from the outlook it shows that it is written by a board member to the chair of the NAC board. I have also seen that it was shared on the social media by the writer of that letter. The best person to answer why the writer who is also a board member of NAC put the letter on social media is Mrs Westerhof herself,” said Dr Madzima.
He added that there was no ulterior motive in putting ZNNP+ at the fore-front in coordinating the PLHIV sector as that is also within the ZNNP+ mandate.
“ZNNP+ coordinates the sector including recommending names of people which are then put in the NAC board. They recommend to Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) the people whom they want to represent them in the NAC board. Based on that, it means the person who wrote the letter was actually nominated by ZNNP+ because they are responsible for that.”
He added that NAC supports through networks financially and technically but the sectors organize themselves. The NAC CEO announced in 2020 that they would soon start working on pruning the PLHIV sector of fly by night CSOs who cause havoc in the sector in a bid to return sanity to the industry.
Meanwhile, Mrs Westerhof says by giving ZNNP+ a leading role at MIPA, procedure was being flouted as the process to move the National MIPA desk to ZNNP+ was still under consultation. Mrs Westerhof wrote a letter which she also shared with other sector members and on social media addressed to the NAC board chair, Mrs Margaret Mehlomakhulu indicating her displeasure with regards to how they were handling the hosting of the MIPA meeting.
Responding to why she decided to share information meant for the board chair on social media, Mrs Westerhof said, “I had exhausted all channels of trying to engage the NAC Chief Executive Officer over the matter. The People Living with HIV (PLHIV) sector since it began many years back, it is coordinated by NAC because that’s what the policy says and it has always been like that and tradition is that it’s the only unique PLHIV platform which is mandated to do just that.”
She added that PLHIV had also written to her concerned about how the structure of the MIPA program had been organized since the MIPA is a PLHIV platform and no one network of persons living HIV owns MIPA.
“MIPA is in NAC, there is no Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) or Network of PLHV on the NAC organogram that coordinates or implements MIPA. This is where people in the sector were raising concerns so I did try to engage the CEO on the issue but he was not forthcoming hence that promoted me to write to the Chair. PLHIV wrote to me saying the program is flouting the NAC policy because no organisation was ever since the beginning of MIPA contracted by NAC. The reason why the letter is now on social media was maybe because I also copied others in the PLHIV sector who might shared it to other platforms.”
However, Mrs Westerhof’s move to share information meant for the board on social according to other players in the PLHIV sector might have been in contravention of the NAC board confidentiality code which states that “Board members should ensure the confidentiality of information entrusted to them by the Council unless where disclosure is authorized by the Council or is legally mandated.”