Remarks by the NAC Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Bernard Madzima at the 2021 World AIDS Day Commemoration at Chinhoyi University Grounds, Chinhoyi, 01 December 2021.
On behalf of the National AIDS Council and the entire community of the response to HIV and AIDS which we coordinate, it is both an honour and privilege for me to be with you today as we commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the World AIDS Day. Our theme this year is “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics”
Once again, we are meeting within altered circumstances as COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, making our theme this year very ideal.
This year’s commemoration is so special to us as it coincides with NAC’s 20th anniversary. NAC has been part of Zimbabwe’s HIV story – which as you all know started very sad and grim, but slowly has morphed into a tale of hope and success.
From the time it was first commemorated in 1988, the World AIDS Day has grown in importance and has become an annual signature event of the national response, allowing stakeholders and partners to take stock of progress and gaps, while rededicating ourselves to scaling up the response.
I am very glad that this year’s commemoration is taking place when we have recorded significant progress in tackling the pandemic. Zimbabwe is one of the countries that achieved the 90-90-90 targets and we are proud that our HIV prevention and treatment interventions have worked. Fewer people than before are getting infected with HIV and dying from AIDS, which gives us renewed hope as we pursue the 95-95-95 targets by 2025.
These achievements have been recorded on the back of hard work by the many stakeholders and partners as well as communities who have remained dedicated steadfast despite challenges.
In administering the AIDS Trust Fund, the National AIDS Council has invested significant resources in rolling out public HIV prevention campaigns meant for people to know their status and bringing HIV testing to communities.
In this regard, we have worked closely with our parent ministry, programme implementers and funding partners to optimize interventions and target most at risk and key populations, paying attention to location and rights. We have mainstreamed interventions for key populations as a way to end inequalities and promote access to and utilization of both prevention and treatment services.
Evidence has shown that while new HIV infections are on the decline, the decline is however slower in specific sub populations and it is these we should concentrate more on. That is why we have introduced and will scale up HIV prevention models in the broad framework of the Combination Prevention Strategy, together with our partners to dry out the pockets of HIV infections concentration.
At the same time, we spend over 50% of the National AIDS Trust Fund to procure and support antiretroviral therapy. Although the value of the Fund has been affected by the economic vicissitudes, we are glad that it continues to represent national commitment and contribution by Zimbabweans towards ending AIDS.
In addition to providing HIV prevention and treatment services, there is a need to strengthen social enablers and improve health and community systems strengthening. I am glad that, working with networks of people living with HIV and partners, we have enhanced interventions to reduce HIV stigma and discrimination and their broad participation in the response.
Our recent achievement of the 90-90-90 targets has given us renewed hope that we can actually end the AIDS pandemic. But that will not be enough if we still have COVID-19. It will not be enough if we still have non-communicable diseases that are now killing many of the people living with HIV, who would have otherwise lived longer due to antiretroviral therapy. We therefore shall promote integrated approaches that end all pandemics in line with Sustainable Development Goals and the National Development Strategy 1.
The theme this year seems to be a recognition of the work NAC had already started years ago when we began integrating various NCDs including cancer after noting that most of them are HIV-coinfections and have the potential to reverse the gains we have achieved over the years.
Over the years we have procured anti-cancer drugs and cancer diagnostic equipment. When COVID-19 emerged in Zimbabwe, NAC immediately integrated it in our HIV campaigns as we feared people living with HIV could be curtailed from accessing needed HIV prevention and treatment services.
Going forward, we shall remain focused on achieving the 95-95-95 targets by 2025 by scaling up HIV programmes and transition the HIV response into a sustainable phase.
We will focus on taking innovative HIV prevention interventions to specific populations and locations where more new infections continue to occur, particularly among adolescent girls and young women; men who have sex with men, sex workers, mobile workers and others while placing emphasis on respecting their rights including those of people living with HIV.
We will scale up provision to ART through differentiated care approaches to optimize outcomes of treatment, while strengthening services to end stigma and discrimination.
In line with our theme, this will include greater focus on COVID-19 and other pandemics that we should concurrently end. We will also pay attention to strengthening our leadership to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of coordination structures and processes, establishing a bi-annual ZNASP joint review and supervision platform to enhance accountability.
Ladies and gentlemen, resources to optimally execute the response remain limited.
The funding gap continues to widen in view of limited domestic and international investment into the response. There is a need therefore for increased domestic investment and adoption of efficient cost savings mechanisms in procurement and programme implementation.
As I conclude, let me express my personal gratitude and indeed that of the National AIDS Council to Government, all donors, implementing partners, stakeholders and indeed communities as well as the World AIDS Day organizing committee for their roles in the response and contributions towards the achievements we have so far recorded as we coast towards ending AIDS by 2030.
I wish you a happy World AIDS Day!