Don’t Let The HIV Story Die, Gvt Tells Journalists

THE Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) says even though Zimbabwe is moving closer to epidemic control, more still needs to be done in terms of amplifying the message of HIV prevention, treatment and control.

By Michael Gwarisa

Zimbabwe is one of the countries most affected by HIV and the pandemic has had a reversal effect on the socio-economic progress that our country achieved over the years.

Officiating at the National AIDS Council Editors and Station Managers Workshop in Mazowe on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Chief Director Public Health, Group Captain (Dr). M. Dobbie, Director AIDS and TB Programm, Dr Owen Mugurungi said HIV remains a very relevant story for the media, which we should always prioritize to ensure that we empower our people to adequately respond to this challenge.

I should salute the role that the media has been playing over the years in contributing to the achievements that I just spoke about. The media has been very instrumental in the progress that we have recorded as a nation in the response to HIV. Your role in informing and educating the people about HIV has been tremendous as it is the beginning of behavior change. Your coverage of HIV has slowly given way to empowerment in place of the fear and desperation engendered by the mere mention of HIV, when people lacked proper information on the pandemic,” said Dr Mugurungi.

He actually called for the need for factual and responsible reporting on issues around HIV particularly access to and utilization of resources as well as those about vulnerable groups.

“There is absolutely no basis for sensation in the HIV story. Only facts driven by a developmental agenda and at times written from personal experience will adequately communicate the HIV story. We have all been affected by HIV and I know some of you write the story as a matter of personal experience.

“As such, the media must no longer continue reporting HIV and AIDS as just a news story, but must be concerned about achieving positive behaviour change. This calls for factual and yet warm reporting, using appropriate language that seeks to empower and infuse hope. I am very glad that the National AIDS Council has introduced media awards to promote factual and responsible reporting in this regard. It is a fact that the HIV story has had to compete with various emerging issues that include politics, business and entertainment for coverage. It has also faced competition from related health challenges such as COVID-19 but I am happy you did not drop it.”

HIV and AIDS remain major challenges affecting the globe and our sub-region, which bears 68% of the 37.7 million infected with HIV globally. Of these, Zimbabwe is home to an estimated 1.3 million people living with HIV (PLHIV). The HIV situation also took a knock from emergence of COVID-19, which worsened the plight of people living with HIV as they were unable to easily access some services while HIV prevention services were heavily disrupted especially in 2020.

Speaking on behalf of NAC Chief Executive Oficer, Dr Benard Madzima, Mr Raymond Yekeye, the NAC Operations Director said despite the challenges around HIV, the national response has largely recovered and has already achieved the 90-90-90 targets, where-in, 95.6% of people infected with HIV now know their status, 95.6% also are on treatment while 93.2% are virally supressed.

“These achievements of global fast targets have set us on an irreversible course to achieve the 95-95-95 targets by 2025. We have also managed to integrate COVID-19 and non-communicable diseases within the response as we aim to achieve the health targets in the National Development Strategy 1 and the eventual ending of AIDS by 2030.

“Latest HIV Estimates have indicated that the majority of new HIV infections continue to occur among key populations and adolescent girls and young women. We are therefore sharpening the focus of our prevention interventions towards these groups and in this regard, the National AIDS Council and our partners have introduced HIV prevention models, through which we deliver targeted services through differentiated care approaches. We are also optimising the treatment programme to prevent early death and avoid emergence as well as management of non-communicable among those on treatment,” said Mr Yekeye.

He added that HIV and AIDS field is very dynamic, marked with frequent and rapid changes and developments that affect people’s lives and thus necessary to interact with  decision makers in the news production chain.

“In convening this workshop, we are convinced that the proper flow of information on HIV and AIDS requires a mutual partnership between the media and ourselves. That partnership should facilitate deliberate sharing of information and accurate as well as responsible reporting, spurred by national interest and the pursuit of a development agenda anchored on the ideals of the National Development Strategy 1.”

The editors workshop is part of NAC’s broad strategy to improve coverage of the HIV and AIDS story by the media.




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