A consortium running under the banner ZIZIWAZI, which comprise of the Zimbabwe AIDS Network (ZAN), the National AIDS Council (NAC), Health Foundation Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Rainbow Community and others, has embarked on a five year engagement program with the aim of addressing challenges faced by populations at higher risk of HIV in accessing health services.
By Patricia Mashiri
Key populations or groups at high risk of HIV in Zimbabwe include Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and other members making up the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) community, Sex Workers, prison inmates, truckers, drug and substance abusers, artisanal miners, young girls and women amongst others. However, these groups have struggling to access health services due to stigma and discrimination from society and in some instances healthcare personal.
Speaking during the consortium meeting that was held in Harare, Mr Godfrey Mudariki, the ZAN National Coordinator said leaving key populations would slow down progress towards ending the AIDS pandemic.
We are seeking to address structural barriers to SRHR including gender inequality, discrimination, financing for key populations and increased access to SRHR/HIV and justice. We do so by influencing policies, raising awareness and empowering communities.
“We need to make communities understand that key populations is a group that has been left out and we should rope in everyone in so that services come with no discrimination,” said Mr Mudariki.
Mr Raymond Yekeye, the NAC Operations Director said most key populations have been lost along the way as social forces prevent KPs from accessing services and poor service experiences prevent them from returning to health facilities.
“There is risk of being exposed at our health facilities, fear of social fallout and lack of provider empathy. ZIZWAZI will focus on violence prevention response. We want to partner with KP led Organizations to establish economic empowerment activities. We also intend to strengthen the capacities to KPs led organizations to respond to incidents of human rights violations and mental health issues,” said Mr Yekeye.
Mr Yekeye also highlighted that their priority as ZIZIWAZI was to target and train first line response to Gender based violence using the LIVES approach by the World Health Organisation.
Meanwhile, Mr Tichaona Mutore, the Director, Health Foundation Zimbabwe said there was need for capacitation of communication and advocacy in the KP sector.
“We have been noticing that most KP led programs have challenges in communication and advocacy. We would like to help strengthen them. We need to do some of advocacy for them,” Mr Mutore said.
The consortium will do a monitoring and evaluation to see if they have penetrated the existing structures in supporting the KPs. ZIZIWAZI will also be rolling out different activities from grassroots level until the top.