By Nevson Mpofu
PEPFAR-President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief an American HIV and AIDS humanitarian Organization is currently reaching out in all provinces of the country carrying out free HIV Testing. The Community HIV Testing program is reaching out even those deep marginalized communities to address the issue of HIV and AIDS with the inclusive spirit of rolling out free Health services, knowledge and capacity building to the communities. Apart from its Zimbabwe commitment, this support is being extended to other countries in which PEPFAR is working in .
In an exclusive interview with the Co-coordinator of the on running nation-wide program Adesanyu Fanmi recently in the city Centre in Harare at a testing and counseling site along First street , said the program is unique in the sense that those diagnosed HIV positive are put on Anti-Retroviral treatment with a kick-start of free ARV supply at the site where information is supplied as well .
‘’This program is meant for all communities without favor, discrimination and marginalization at all. It is unique in that HIV services are supplied at the site of HIV testing and counseling by experts in the field .Those diagnosed positive to HIV are immediately put on FREE ART without delay.
‘’We are as an organization getting to 95-95-95 targets, that is ensuring that at least 95% of people living with HIV know their HIV status , 95% of those who know their status are adherent to ant-retroviral treatment [ART] and 95% on ART are virally suppressed and no-longer spread HIV .
‘’ In other words our initiatives include building and improving on laboratories across the country , HIV and AIDS counseling services of which we have reached 2,3 million with HIV testing and counseling services . Also we offer circumcisions and by 2018, we are targeting 306 000 males .
The community HIV testing is currently around the country with in mind the need to encourage people to get tested; put on ART and to suppress the virus so as to move towards total elimination of HIV which if left not well managed progresses to AIDS. PEPFAR supports procurement of ARVs to ensure treatment for ALL. The other initiative is the DREAMS PROJECT –DETERMINED, RESILIENT, be EMPOWERED and, AIDS FREE, MENTORIED AND SAFE which is in 6 districts in the country and intends to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women.
In its endeavor to eradicate the spread of the epidemic which is global , PEPFAR is working with some organizations in Zimbabwe like OPHID , ZACH , NEW START CENTRE , UN AGENCIES like UNITAID , WHO and the Ministry of Health and Child Care ‘s AIDS and TB Department . Some of its partner organizations in Zimbabwe are its sister organization USAI, Centre for Disease Control, AFRICAID and Population Services Zimbabwe.
Adesanyu further stated that these organizations are all in all complimenting the work done by PEPFAR by show casing their good works through multi-co-ordinated systems and by getting into the communities around the country.
‘We are working with a number of organizations some of which like PSI are co-coordinating HIV and AIDS programs around the country.
‘’We have the goal in mind to end HIV by 2030. Like now people no longer talk much about AIDS because of the effort being put on ground by several Non –Governmental Organizations working to end HIV by 2030.
‘’There is much effort needed to end the epidemic by 2030. We are saying , a free HIV generation by 2030 through the implementation of vital programs , policies and working on impact sensitive programs like the one we have launched in the country ‘’, she said .
The globe at a glance is tight clipped to work towards total elimination of a deadly pandemic which has claimed more than 30 million lives , more than 40 million are HIV positive in the world and Africa is more affected since it is the continent highly impacted by HIV especially HIV 1 in Southern Africa . For more than 30 years, American people have provided over 3 billion in assistance to Zimbabwe.
HIV 1 which belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses is more virulent and it affects worse in many developing countries of the world like in Sub-Saharan -Africa , parts of Asia , the Caribbean , parts of Europe and America .
Commenting on the same issue DR Mushavi from the Ministry of Health and Child Care said the world is moving towards the 95 – 95 -95 targets in order to see a free HIV generation .
‘’We need to move further to reach these targets still with the message of getting tested , be on ARVS and suppress the HIV epidemic around the world . But let’s fight the battle in our own country, moving ahead with the times in Technology and Medical Research so that we can devour the 5% remaining and be 100% . By doing so , we are to grapple with the challenge’’, she said
The battle is long and tiresome. We are talking of Global Crisis, this is a result of this epidemic which is pulling us down, but it is a battle which we can end if we take a strong focus on 95-95-95 targets in Pediatric HIV. EGPAF has gone long in the protracted battle in the country but DR Mahobva states that the battle is still long before we reach it.
‘’We need not to boast above our heads like champions in this battle. We are still going on in the great fight against HIV and AIDS but let us focus more on ending pediatric HIV , ending it in our children , they need our support , they look towards us because we are the ones responsible for their plight .We there need to promulgate prevention of Mother to Child transmission [PMTCT] programs in Zimbabwe .
‘’Let us talk of co-infections in our children by creating their space for a free HIV generation even before 2030. Let us integrate HIV and AIDS programs at grassroots, fight those opportunistic infections co-infecting our children. Let us suppress the virus as targeted by all organizations in this fight’’ ,she posed .
This Research Journalist has in mind the opinion that if all older generations are deceased and only the current young generations are left free of the virus and they have the notion to abstain from unsafe sex, be faithful and resort to condom use , then we have a free HIV generation in the future .
Judith Mukaro who works for an HIV and AIDS organization ,Women and AIDS Network based in Harare sees HIV and AIDS centered more on women and children who fail to resource themselves as they are more poverty stricken and impinged by African values pinned by male domination .Apart from , she dwells on Law issues .
‘’Women and children empowerment stands vital if we are to succeed, but as a country we are pushed backwards by economic hardships. Apart from all we know, we need to address Gender equality and equity supporting Laws like the Domestic Violence Act , Willful HIV transmission , crafting sundry policies at national level to address culture , tradition , ethnicity , stigma and its malice related to HIV .
‘’Let us fight economic hardships if we are to succeed in the battle. We do not have resources as a country to empower women especially those HIV positive, it means then, it’s a long struggle but there is relief with PEPFAR and more of these organizations giving the country support’’, she gave a closing remark ..
The Community HIV testing program is a success so far in all communities since a number of people now resists opportunistic infections like Tuberculosis which exacerbates the spread. Communities are now opening up in HIV tests, giving testimonies on their HIV status , getting re-tested , putting themselves on ART , suppressing virus and fighting stigma and discrimination .