Access to ART for children remains top priority
Address by President Mnangagwa to mark World Aids Day
It gives me great pleasure to address the nation on the eve of the World AIDS Day.
We join others in the comity of nations in celebrating the achievements recorded to date and recommit ourselves to ending HIV/AIDS.
The theme of this year’s commemorations: “Let Communities Lead”, emphasises the need for communities to be at the centre of the response.
Despite the negative impact of COVID-19, our country’s response to HIV remains on course. I am, therefore, pleased to announce that we have achieved epidemic control.
Presently, new infections are now less than the number of deaths per year.
Over the past 10 years, Zimbabwe recorded the highest decline of 78 percent in new HIV infections in Eastern and Southern Africa.
However, we should never be complacent, as doing so, may lead to a resurgence. We have to redouble our efforts, mop up new infections and sharpen our focus on most-at-risk groups.
The enthusiasm and participation during the countrywide community engagement campaigns being undertaken by the First Lady, Amai Mnangagwa, complemented by other Community-Based Organisations, is encouraging.
The key messages on the importance of utilising HIV prevention services along with the importance of strong families, morally upright young people and an empowered society, remain critical to our intervention strategies.
In addition to the progress we have recorded in HIV prevention, our country has increased the Anti-Retroviral Therapy coverage to 99 percent of the 1,3 million HIV positive people.
I congratulate us as a nation for having achieved the 95-95-95 targets among adults. This is a commendable milestone.
Ninety-five percent of those on treatment have their viral load undetectable, while 95 percent of all HIV positive people know their status and 95 percent of those who know their status are on treatment.
However, it is most unfortunate that coverage is lagging behind among children, with HIV status known for only 64 percent of those estimated to be living with HIV.
This situation cannot be allowed to continue. As parents and guardians, we must be more responsible to save the lives of our children and young people.
I, therefore, challenge the Ministry of Health and Child Care, stakeholders as well as partners to scale up the necessary interventions, including by ensuring that all pregnant women register for antenatal care.
The progress we have made in response to HIV has to be sustained. Let us equally remain vigilant in dealing with emerging epidemics, including the associated Non-Communicable Diseases.
Our people must, therefore, be screened regularly for common Non-Communicable Diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and kidney ailments, among others.
We must also tackle head-on the new drug abuse epidemic that is threatening the future of our young people and the nation.
Apart from destroying the moral and intellectual fabric of our nation, drug abuse has been strongly associated with new HIV infections. We must be united as a nation in confronting this menace.
In a few days’ time, our country is host to the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2023).
The Conference is an important platform for sharing and exchanging cutting-edge evidence and lessons in the response to HIV and other epidemics afflicting our continent and the world.
I would like to express our gratitude to our funding and development partners who have continued to augment domestic resources over the years, and enhanced the achievements we have made.
It is also encouraging that the 2nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa High Level Meeting of Finance Ministers from Africa, will be meeting at the sidelines of this Continental event to discuss issues related to sustainable domestic funding for HIV/AIDS.
In this regard, Zimbabwe stands ready to share lessons around our home-grown National AIDS Trust Fund, commonly known as the AIDS Levy, which has been instrumental in the successes we continue to score.
I want to assure the nation that my Government will continue to play its part, by exploring robust mechanisms to enhance the national response to HIV/AIDS and related emergencies.
Empowered communities shall remain at the centre of our initiatives and key to our country’s response.
I commend the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the National AIDS Council for coordinating the response to the pandemic.
My gratitude also goes to all stakeholders, development partners and communities for their dedication and fruitful work in pursuit of ending AIDS by 2030.
With these remarks, I wish the nation, memorable commemorations of the World AIDS Day.
God bless you all.
God bless Zimbabwe.
I thank you.