By Byron Mutingwende
As the world commemorates the World Aids Day (WAD) today, a number of organisations have expressed their solidarity with those living with the disease and are hopeful that solutions to the pandemic will be achieved in the future.
The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has said it stands in solidarity with all the people living with HIV and all those that have succumbed to AIDS-related illnesses since the first case was reported in the early 1980s.
This year’s theme: “Closing the Tap of new HIV Infections”, a continuation of the 2016 theme, is an indication of the importance Zimbabwe places on efforts to completely stop new infections to avoid future human suffering and deaths.
CWGH applauded Zimbabwe for making provisions for improved health and quality of life in the new constitution by acknowledging that health is a fundamental human right, and that access to quality health care should be universal to all citizens.
“We further appreciate the opportunity given to the CWGH, other members of the civic community, individuals and institutions to have their voices heard in the constitution making process, and we now demand to see the provisions of this new constitution implemented.
“Zimbabwe has successfully battled the HIV/AIDS pandemic and registered reduction of both incidence and prevalence. This has been through innovativeness and vigorous programming through the MOHCC, a vibrant multi-sectoral approach coordinated by NAC, and a responsive community, that the country managed to reduce prevalence rate from 21, 5% in 2001 to the current 14%. Without the AIDS Levy – a homegrown solution – and the support of other partners such as the Global Fund, Zimbabwe would not have accomplished this magnitude of achievement.
However it is important to note that new infections have not yet stopped, nor have AIDS deaths. ART coverage is high, but not universal and TB prevalence mirrors that of HIV; meanwhile the supply of basic drugs remains erratic such that some patients still complicate and/or die from preventable diseases. More still needs to be done to further reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country.
“We must explore more home grown solutions as a country to further grow the AIDS Levy, to fully capacitate NAC to enable it to carry its mandate effectively and efficiently. Meanwhile, we should find ways of taking everyone on board including those in the informal sector that are not currently contributing to the AIDS Levy, while ensuring community accountability mechanisms through the strengthening of the NAC governance structures at all levels. These should be supported by community involvement mechanisms at all levels of NAC, capacitating and monitoring them to perform.”
The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) called for the renewal of efforts against the racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudices that fuel – and have always fuelled – the HIV epidemic.
“To do this will require that each of us with HIV and in this movement commit to understand and address our own prejudices and then to taking action, from a place of compassion, solidarity and strength to right the wrongs that still plague the response to HIV.
“We, at GNP+, believe that a better world is still possible. We believe that a better world for people living with HIV will mean a better world for everyone. We know that people living with HIV, our people, are still without treatment in many places, and without quality treatment in others, still without proper diagnostics, still vulnerable to ARV resistance, still without enough food. We know that people living with HIV, our people are still imprisoned because of their HIV status, still facing domestic violence, still without enough jobs and enough income. We know that people living with HIV, our people, still stand, shoulder to shoulder, and fight together for universal access to HIV testing and treatment, universal high quality health care, for legal protection from discrimination and against bad laws that criminalize us and those in our communities, and for the right to make decisions about our bodies, our families and reproduction, and who we are sexually intimate with. We still stand for ALL people living with HIV, gay men, lesbians, transgender people, heterosexual women and men, children and adolescents, babies and those who are elderly.”