By Nhau Mangirazi
CHIRUNDU– Government must avail foreign currency so that National Aids Council can buy Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) drugs for people with HIV and AIDS.
Speaking during Mashonaland West provincial World Aids Day commemorations at Chirundu border post recently provincial resident minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said there is need for more resource mobilization to support the good cause to HIV and AIDS response by all stakeholders including Government.
‘Funding for the response programs remains a big challenge as we grapple with economic setback due to by poor productivity and critically low levels of foreign currency. I have been informed that National Aids Council (NAC) collects several millions of dollars to procure critical HIV and non- communicable drugs and commodities. I am therefore appealing to the Government to continue prioritizing allocation of foreign currency to NAC to ensure that we do not delay buying HIV and AIDS drugs requirements to avoid loss of its value,’ she made the passionate appeal in her address here.
She however, acknowledged that ministry of health, NAC and other stakeholders including donor community pulled through 2019 despite an array of challenges.
‘Your contribution and participation have been very immense and are building blocks towards ending AIDS,’ she added.
The commemorations held under Communities make the Difference theme were held at the border post that has become hotspots of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) due to increased sexual activities among young females.
Mliswa-Chikoka later challenged parents and traditional leaders to curb forced marriages by forcing young girls into early marriage and sex commercial work as it is unhealthy.
‘Imi vamwe vabereki ndimi munotuma vanasikana vaduku kupinda nezvepabonde pamunotambira magrocery muchiti azviwanepi iye asina kwaanoshanda. Regai vanasikana vakure vasati vaita zvepabonde. (Parents guard against your young girls to avoid early sex and child marriages. Don’t get free groceries as this may push them into sex commercial work)
Her calls come as new HIV infections are on the rise among youths.
‘The majority of new infections are among key population areas including sex workers, young people, adolescent girls and young women, men who tend to have sex with other men. Even in Mashonaland West, statistical data has shown that HIV prevalence is now high in key population areas like artisanal miners as well as young women into sex work activities,’ noted Mliswa-Chikoka.
Mashonaland West has 127 425 people on ART but the number is increasing though there are Community ART Refill groups that are mitigating on transport cost for everyone to collect their medication as a member can do so for the selected group.
‘Notably there has been a fall in HIV related deaths in the province as over 3900 deaths have been avoided. Chirundu is one of Hurungwe hotspots though there is improvement on rate of stigma.
‘The significant milestone would not have been achieved if communities were not fully mobilized to participate in the response to end AIDS,’ she added.
However, Tellmore Mukarakate a member of Zimbabwe National People Living with HIV positively felt the occasion was an annual showcasing by Non-Government Organizations on HIV and AIDS.
‘The World AIDS day have become another day of showcasing by these NGOs as those of us infected or affected by HIV and AIDS are always in the background of events. It is high time we take a step further and make it clear that top officials enjoy this as holiday at the expense of those failing to get drugs on time. This is a challenge we are facing as few are benefiting from such events,’ complained Mukarakate.
The event had some communities especially sex commercial workers from Zambia side were part of participants.