US commits $11 million to combat HIV/Aids in Masvingo

By Upenyu Chaota

MASVINGO—The United States of America (USA) through its embassy in Harare has committed $11 million dollars shot in the arm for combating HIV/Aids in the province, ambassador Brian Nichols said.

Nichols was in Masvingo recently and visited the Provincial General Hospital where he said his government was going to support various projects in the province key among them being the health care system.

“We are looking at projects for support for health care in the province looking at issues to do with HIV/Aids.

“We are providing, through non-governmental organisations in the province, about $11 million in assistance. The money goes to the treatment, identification, testing, counselling, continuous engagement with HIV positive people and awareness campaigns so that people who are negative remain negative,” said Nichols.

He said the money will also be channelled towards upgrading the testing laboratory at the Provincial General Hospital so that it gets capacity to service the whole province.

“The laboratory that we support at the Provincial Hospital is a regional laboratory providing testing services throughout the province specifically focused on the issue of viral load and making sure that people are managing their viral load appropriately.

“Every year we provide about $150 million in assistance to Zimbabwe on the issues of HIV/Aids,” said Nichols.

Provincial Medical Director (PMD) Dr Amadeus Shamhu said the assistance will go a long way in the fight against the epidemic.

 “We are really grateful for the financial assistance which we have been promised. We really need to combat HIV/Aids so that in the next few years, there will be no new cases. We need to eradicate this scourge and we need money for that.

“People need to be aware of the dangers of HIV/Aids and get proper access to treatment. I would like to thank the American people for this wonderful gesture and we hope to keep working with them until we defeat HIV/Aids,” said Dr Shamhu.

In the province, Chiredzi district has the highest HIV prevalence rate standing at 15.5 percent.

Masvingo District covering both urban and rural areas has 13,9 percent prevalence rate, followed by Zaka (12,6 percent), Mwenezi (11,8 percent), Gutu (11,5 percent), Chivi (11,5 percent) with Bikita sitting at the tail end with 9,3 percent prevalence rate.

National Aids Council (NAC) provincial coordinator Edgar Muzulu said according to the data, it meant that in every 100 people in Chiredzi about 15 of them had the HIV virus, while an average of nine people out of every 100 had the virus in Bikita.