THERE is need for Zimbabwe to mobilise domestic financial and technical resources for the purposes of enhancing HIV Biomedical research and development, experts have said.
By Michael Gwarisa
This was revealed during a mini Biomedical HIV-Prevention Forum (BHPF) that was held in Harare. The Biennial Forum is an official pre-conference of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). The BHPF in 2021 is the fifth such event, following the successful events hosted in 2013, 2015, and 2017. Three countries, Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe and Rwanda will be hosting a mini BHPF in their countries ahead of the 2021 preconference.
Speaking at the 2021 Mini-BHP Forum, former health and childcare Minister, Senator, Dr David Parirenyatwa said relying solely on donor funding for biomedical research and assistance was dangerous for the country’s national security.
From your meeting, you are emphasizing on biomedical research so as to prevent HIV. You are advocating for health systems strengthening research to see how established the health sector is. The challenge facing research in Zimbabwe and Africa at large is that of sponsorship. The one who has the money determines what you should do and as a country, we need to be independent to conduct researches.
“If we depend too much on external funding then we are posing a security risk to the country. You are aware that 93% of our drugs are still purchased with the support from outside and again that is a security risk. That’s why we need to make our own drugs here as a country and as a region,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
According to data, the AIDS response has been seriously affected and may even be further disrupted by COVID-19. Sub-Saharan Africa could have experienced more than 500 000 additional deaths if HIV treatment were interrupted for six months (2020–2021). A 20% disruption could result in 110 000 deaths. In addition, HIV funding fell 7% from 2017 to US$ 18.6 billion in 2019. A 30% funding shortfall means HIV is not effectively addressed.
Hwange Central Member of Parliament, Honorable Daniel Molokele said it was difficu lt to implement HIV biomedical research in the absence of financial support from central government.
“There is high level commitment from government towards research and development. What is left now is honoring that commitment. As CSOs, as international development partners, I remind you that there is need for increased advocacy towards promoting budget funding for research and development and it is particularly important when we are talking about Biomedical HIV prevention because at the end of the day, we need a lot of investment in that context when it comes to research and development,” said Honorable Molokele.
Mr Itai Rusike, the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) Executive Director said, “Relying heavily on donors is dangerous especially considering that already national Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are struggling with funding issues. We need to mobilise resources at local level to finance our own research and health programs as a country.”
Meanwhile, to achieve an Africa free of New HIV infections (AfNHi)’s vision of ending new HIV infections in Africa, the Biomedical HIV Prevention Forum will mobilise scientific knowledge and build bridges between science and policy. In addition to mapping potential for collaborative national and regional activities within the AfNHi network, the forum will strengthen connections between policy and research through information exchange with HIV prevention advocates.
The National AIDS Council Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Benard Madzima said there were still gaps in as far as gathering Key Populations related data on HIV and research around that area would inform programing and ensure resources are distributed adequately across all populations.
“I am sure we are all aware that Zimbabwe is aspiring to achieve the AIDS free generation by 2030, we aim to have Zero Aids Deaths by 2030, Zero new infections and Zero stigma. We are glad to say that we have done lots of work and we are on track to achieving these 2030 targets.
“The country however remains with a high HIV prevalence. We have done great work in achieving the targets that were set by the UNAIDS. We however note that there is a high burden of HIV among females compared to some age groups where it’s almost double so we need to address this. Key Populations continue to be affected more with HIV,” said Dr Madzima.