By Staff Reporter
MORE than 1.2 million Zimbabweans living with HIV will continue receiving life-saving treatment and health services enabling them to lead long and healthy lives.
Thousands of health care workers will also continue carrying out their critical work under the latest country plan approved by the United States.
The US Congress approved $213.2 million for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) 2021 country plan for Zimbabwe, reflecting strong coordination between the United States and key partners, including the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Global Fund, UNAIDS, and civil society.
The approved plan will advance client-centered services, support Zimbabwe health care workers, and implement resilient programmes designed to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19.
More than US$9.4 million of the total comes from the American Rescue Plan Act to strengthen health systems, such as the electronic health record and national surveillance systems, already helping screen and track Covid-19 at Zimbabwe’s ports of entry.
U.S. Embassy Chargé d’ Affaires Thomas Hastings has recognised the enormous contributions to the HIV response by civil society organizations, people living with HIV, health workers and implementing partners during an especially challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I commend the Zimbabwean communities for continuing to work despite challenges posed by Covid-19. Support under the PEPFAR program couldn’t have come at better time to ensure people continue to receive HIV treatment and other lifesaving services,” he said.
More than 1.27 million people live with HIV in Zimbabwe, including 1.19 million adults and nearly 76,000 children.
The PEPFAR 2021 plan supports 100 percent treatment coverage within every district and across all ages, ensuring people like 46-year-old Patricia Padzura, a Harare resident diagnosed with HIV 20 years ago, remain on treatment and continue to live healthy lives.
“Getting onto HIV treatment is the best thing that ever happened to my life,” Padzura said. “I am healthy and most importantly, I am happy that the virus in my blood is now undetectable.”
In the year ahead, PEPFAR will invest more than $40 million to support nearly 200,000 vulnerable girls and young women aged 10-24 in Zimbabwe under the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) programme.
Since 2015, DREAMS has reached more than 785,000 girls with HIV and violence prevention education and services, educational assistance, economic strengthening, and post-violence care.
About $9 million of support will benefit nearly 53,000 Zimbabwean LGBTQI+ community members, targeting men who have sex with men and transgender people.
While no PEPFAR assistance goes directly to the Government of Zimbabwe, it does support thousands of health care workers through implementing partners and non-government organizations who carry out the work under close Embassy oversight.
PEPFAR supports these health care workers, as well as key staff in district and regional health offices and laboratories, with salary supplements, stipends, travel expenses, and other forms of support.
PEPFAR’s support to Zimbabwe, including the $1.7 billion cumulative investment since 2003, has vastly and positively changed the direction of the HIV epidemic.
The second Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA 2020) reflected this impact, noting that among all Zimbabweans on HIV treatment, 90.3% had achieved viral load suppression, meaning they effectively have no risk of transmitting HIV to others.
Continued PEPFAR investment will ensure Zimbabwe remains on track to attaining epidemic control and ending AIDS by 2030.