Official Opening Remarks by the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Mashonaland West Province, Hon Mary Mliswa-Chikoka for the NAC workshop for Journalists at Chinhoyi University Hotel on 27 October 2022
I am very excited to have you all here in Mahonaland West province and feel highly honoured to have been requested to officially open this very important workshop to update journalists on the current progress and trends in the national response to HIV and AIDS.
Far from the belief in some quarters that HIV and AIDS stories are now tired, they remain relevant and worthy of our serious attention. Indeed HIV and AIDS have been part of our lives for nearly 30 years and have most probably received some of the most widespread coverage leading to the feeling that the stories may have lost their appeal.
The politics of the day have also been very intriguing, creating competition for front page coverage with HIV and other related stories. I must therefore emphasize the fact that the HIV and AIDS story remains an issue of public interest, which has an undying appeal as a story of both human suffering and hope.
Your role as the journalists goes beyond just writing the story. You have a responsibility of making the nation understand the intricacies of the functioning of the national response to HIV and AIDs, issues related to policy making that we need to tackle, the resource gaps inherent in the response which have the potential of leaving our people without ARV medicines, the need for us to serve as role models in engendering behaviour change and many others.
I would like to salute the role the media has played over the years in disseminating empowering information to the nation about the pandemic. While acknowledging the significant role the media has played, the need for practical information for behavior change and living with HIV in the face of non-communicable diseases and emergencies such as COVID-19 has become even more relevant.
As such, I would like to call on you to be innovative in packaging the HIV and AIDS message to make it more appealing, palatable and usable to achieve the desired ends of the national response.
I am excited about your presence in Mashonaland West as I am convinced that coverage of our HIV and AIDS interventions and development in general will benefit from this.
As you know, Mashonaland West is a very rich province with some of the country’s most productive farms and mines including gold panning. Our province also has two busy borders with Zambia at Chirundu and Kariba, making for continuous cross border interaction.
These circumstances naturally increase vulnerability and exposure to HIV infection and as a province we have put in place various prevention programmes. We still require more of these services especially to our farming, fishing and mining areas as well as targeting sex workers. It is unfortunate that there are some areas in our province that lack programme implementers due to distance and terrain. I therefore would like to appeal to NAC to assist through mobilizing organisations to serve such areas.
As mentioned by Dr Madzima, this workshop has come just a few weeks after Zimbabwe won received the honor to host the next International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa.
This is a very important platform for the media to vigorously market Zimbabwe as a worthy business and tourism destination. As Mashonaland West province, we offer unparalleled business opportunities in mining and farming as well as service industries.
In addition, we are home to some of the world’s best tourist attractions. On account of this we are counting on you as the media to market our potential so that visitors to the ICASA can take advantage of their presence to explore our province for business and pleasure.
Ladies and gentlemen, this workshop will become one of those talk shows if we do not see a change in the coverage HIV and AIDS and the related NCDs and emergencies. It is therefore imperative that you seriously and actively participate in this programme and pass on our gained skills to the benefit of our readers.
Let me thank the National AIDS Council for organizing this training workshop. We always need such interaction and collaboration to share information and be better placed to inform and educate the nation.
Access to information by the media is also very critical if the media has to adequately report on HIV and AIDS. You will agree with me that the HIV and AIDS field is one of the very dynamic one, ever producing new information.
Sharing this information with the media will thus result in the same information being shared with the wider audiences. Such workshops are therefore very critical.
Journalists themselves have not been spared by the pandemic.
Often times we have had to gather and mourn as we bury journalists that would have succumbed to AIDS. I therefore would like to urge NAC to extend their HIV prevention and support interventions to journalists as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to wish you a fruitful two days of interaction as you go through your programme.
Mashonaland “Best” province and its people are very hospitable and are very excited to have you here. You are all invited to spare some time and enjoy the experience of our province.
It is now my singular honour, Ladies and Gentlemen to declare your workshop officially opened!
I thank You!