By Robert Tapfumaneyi
PEOPLE living with HIV want the vacant National Aids Council (NAC) chief executive officer’s job to be occupied by someone openly living with the condition.
This follows the recent departure of Tapiwa Magure who has been at the helm of the organisation for nearly two decades.
NAC has placed an advert calling for applications for Magure’s replacement.
“We call for the urgent appointment of the NAC CEO preferably a peer model as someone living openly with HIV and AIDS with a track record in civil society,” said People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in a petition sent to the Health Ministry.
Through their different networks, activists also want to be capacitated to offer counselling to their peers on mental health issues and ways to cope with the current economic and political crisis.
The networks involved are Work Under the Tree (TWUT), Treatment Advocacy Activism (TAA), Widows Fountain of Life (WFoL) and the Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS Activist Union Community Trust.
Also involved are (ZHAAUCT), Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) and Zimbabwe Women Living with HIV National Forum (ZWLWHNF).
Among some of the prominent individuals who have thrown their weight behind the demands are Stanley Takaona, Sekesayi Rita Thikathali, Siphiwe Chabikwa, Silas Tavara, Tonderai Mwareka and Tendayi Westerhof.
Activists also want the reviewing of the NAC Act which they claim was now outdated and no longer in tandem with the revolving trends around HIV.
They also want the composition of the NAC board to have a quota reserved for members openly living with HIV.
In its petition, PLHIV is demanding that NAC stops diverting funds meant for anti-retroviral therapy (ART) towards mitigating the effect of non-communicable diseases such as cancer.
“This is a Ministry of Health and Child Care responsibility and funds meant for HIV treatment must not be diverted to mitigate non-communicable illnesses,” said the group.
They want “fully registered PLHIV Networks and organizations with the Private Voluntary Organization Board to be supported to strengthen capacity and mobilising communities to achieve the 90-90-90 targets and the 2020 Global Prevention Coalition Roadmap”.
“The Health Ministry must address the shortages of ARVs and foreign currency and meet with the Finance Ministry and Minister of Health and Child Care to prioritize foreign currency for procurement ARVs,” the activists further say in their petition.
Among some of their demands, the activists want government to address stigmatisation of PLHIV at parliament level and facilitation of PLHIV to meet with the committee on Health and HIV.
“Members of Parliament are making discriminatory remarks that are fuelling stigma and discrimination to people living with and AIDS,” they said.
In 1999, the President ratified the National AIDS policy which set out a framework for a multispectral approach to the epidemic, with coordination from the National AIDS Council (NAC).
The policy recognized the need to address HIV & AIDS as a major priority for political support and promoted forms of social and resource mobilisation to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Zimbabwe has been credited by many observers for having its own dedicated resources to deal with the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Most significant of these resources has been the National AIDS Trust Fund (NATF) known as the AIDS Levy.