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HIV, TB campaigns at HIFA

By Mirirai Nsingo / Published on Thursday, 04 May 2017 19:21 PM / No Comments / 533 views

4 May 2017

AS the Harare International Festival of the Arts roared into life on Tuesday, it was not just about merrymaking as audiences also received HIV and Tuberculosis services and critical information at the First Street Stage.

The HIV and Tuberculosis (TB) campaign which is sponsored by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will run throughout the HIFA week under the ‘Treatment for all’ theme.

Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Nicole Finnemann said the HIV and Tuberculosis awareness was meant to increase awareness as PEPFAR supports Zimbabwe in fast-tracking the ending AIDS and TB goals.

“We are back at the First Street Stage this year in conjunction with OK Zimbabwe. We are capturing the audience through entertainment as we seek to provide critical information and services such as HIV testing and counselling.

“Our biggest campaign now is the Treatment now and Treatment for all; Get on, Stay on, Live on as we envisage to have an HIV free generation. We have enough ARV that can cater for all the people who test HIV positive.

“We are also creating awareness for voluntary medical male circumcision among other prevention programmes. Several PEPFAR partners are exhibiting here and these will be giving out critical information and services,” she said.

“We have sponsored this same initiative in 2014 but what you see here is even much bigger and better than that. We expect hundreds of people to come through.”

Last year alone approximately 30,000 Zimbabweans were diagnosed with TB. TB continues to be the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, and approximately 70 percent of Zimbabweans suffering from TB are co-infected with HIV.

PEPFAR has been supporting the Zimbabwean Government in its HIV and AIDS response, since 2006, PEPFAR has contributed over US $650 million and for 2016 alone, the same aid contributed US $135 towards the response.

The aid seeks to support the country in achieving the United Nations AIDS Programme (UNAIDS) ambitious target of ending AIDS by 20230.

The target seeks to have 90 percent of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status by 2020, with 90 percent of all people with HIV receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy by 2020 while 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy should have viral suppression by 2020.

PEPFAR through the Ministry of Health and Child Care has employed various strategies in its HIV and AIDS response such as the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe) initiatives.

Funded to the tune of US $38 million, the Dreams initiative seeks to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women by 40 percent in ten sub-Saharan countries, including Zimbabwe through the empowerment of girls and young women to protect their health and well-being.

Adolescent girls and young women account for a disproportionately high number of new HIV infections in Zimbabwe and around the world.

In Zimbabwe, 62,000 people were infected with HIV last year alone, and nearly 14,000 of those were girls and young women ages 15 to 24. Between the ages of 18 and 24, HIV prevalence for women is two to three times higher than that of men.

Under the DREAMS initiative, adolescent girls and young women are being provided with a core package of services that includes HIV testing, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, prevention and gender-based violence support, family planning, social protection, educational subsidies, and economic assistance for parents and caregivers of highly vulnerable girls. Empowering adolescent girls and young and strengthening family and community support structures are critical to stopping the spread of HIV.

DREAMS also aim to expand access to voluntary medical male circumcision and antiretroviral therapy (ART) to males ages 15 to 29.

PEPFAR also supported the country’s Test all, Treat all pilot following the recommendation by World Health Organisation as a way of moving towards the end AIDS goal.

In 2016, PEPFAR reached over 1, 8 million individuals with HIV testing and counselling and expects to reach over 2, 5 million in 2017. PEPFAR has also increased its procurement of antiretroviral medicines to ensure there is treatment for all.

Pictures by Nyasha Chawatama

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