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Government finalising community health strategy

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Harare (New Ziana) -The Zimbabwe government is finalising a community health strategy as it moves to bring on board people grown and led interventions in its quest to mitigate the impact of HIV and Aids, a cabinet minister said on Wednesday.

Briefing the media on the sidelines the ongoing International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA), Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said it has since come to the attention of the government that the private sector and communities are key in the journey to fight the pandemic, hence the need for a community health strategy.

He said Zimbabwe is among the highest HIV-burdened countries with a prevalence of 12 percent and 1.3 million people living with the infection, of which 72 088, which is 5.5 percent, are children.

“The mother to child transmission rate at 8.1 percent against the target of no more than 5 percent. To date 92.9 percent of pregnant women are receiving Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART), therefore giving birth to HIV free children,” he said.

Dr Mombeshora said despite the significant progress being made in achieving the global UNAIDS 95- 95-95 targets on testing, treatment and viral suppression among 15 to 45 year olds, disparities and inequalities persist with regards to children under the age of 15 with a low coverage of 65:100:86.

He said this translates to only 65 percent of children tested for HIV, with 100 percent of them tested on treatment while 86 percent of those on treatment virally supressed as of last year.

Dr Mombeshora cited gender inequality as one of the drivers of the new HIV infections which he said were high among adolescent girls and young women with the country having a high adolescent pregnancy rate of 22 percent.

“At least one in three women and girls have experienced various forms of Gender based Violence which limits their decisions on issues such as their sexual and reproductive health,” he said.

He bemoaned the dwindling support for HIV/Aids programs not only in Zimbabwe, but globally, by multilateral organisations which he said had declined by 9 percent since 2011.

Zimbabwe, he Said, continues to get its funding for HIV/AIDS programs from donors which accounted for 80 percent with PEPFAR and the Global Fund being the largest funders.

“With the ongoing global challenges, funding for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis may not be sustained at the current level in the foreseeable future, creating a potential gap in sustaining the provision of HIV treatment and prevention efforts to reduce new infections especially among children and young people, in particular adolescent girls and young women,” said Dr Mombeshora.

He suggested that increasing levels of domestic resources and improving efficiencies in resource utilisation was critical to mitigate such funding risks.

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