By NAC CEO, Dr. B. Madzima
It is both an honour and pleasure for me to warmly welcome you to the home of the national response to HIV in Zimbabwe, to officially handover face masks that we have procured for the deaf community.
Although the country has covered great strides in responding to both HIV and COVID-19 targeting the general population, there are some most at-risk population groups that, due to their nature are often left out and therefore likely to be most affected.
This includes the Deaf community. Zimbabwe has an estimated 700,000 people classified as deaf. These people are not easily served by the general messaging and programmes that we churn out to promote prevention and treatment.
To walk the talk of leaving no-one behind and embrace such groups in the response to both HIV and COVID-19, NAC has procured special masks for the deaf community.
We have also embraced the same principle in pursuit of the 95-95-95 targets as we pursue HIV epidemic control.
In addition to providing HIV and COVID-19 prevention services to the deaf and other special needs population sub groups, we have deliberately enhanced HIV services targeting sex workers, adolescent girls and young women, prison inmates, youths, artisanal miners and other groups to ensure that no one is left behind.
We are excited that since the emergence of COVID-19, the National AIDS Council has been working closely with the Sunrise Sign Language Academy, who have graciously provided sign language back-up to all our audio-visual productions promoting use of HIV prevention services, social distancing, washing of hands and wearing of masks among other practices to effectively tame the twin pandemic of HIV and COVID-19.
The work we are doing with Sunrise Academy of Sign Language is part of the ongoing partnership we have had over the years together with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, through which NAC has supported the training of primary care counsellors in sign language and special needs interpretation for HIV communication and programming.
We are excited that the primary care counsellors have done a tremendous job within our communities, promoting uptake of HIV services and have assisted in dispensing COVID-19 messages.
As part of this collaboration, NAC has procured 5000 special user-friendly face masks that we are handing over today, to Sunrise Academy of Sign Language on behalf of the deaf community.
As you will see, these face masks enable lip reading, which is essential in sign language communication.
We believe that they will also go a long way in facilitating and easing communication about both HIV and COVID-19 including the ongoing vaccination.
Dealing with special groups requires careful communication and demystification of myths that may counter the effectiveness of the vaccination campaigns and uptake of services.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my pleasure and singular honour to handover these special face masks to the
I Thank You