Midlands Bureau Chief
ACTING President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday commissioned the US$200 000 state-of-the-art Gweru Provincial Hospital (GPH) Opportunistic Infections (OI) / antiretroviral therapy (ART) Centre of Excellence (COE) that will cater for over 3 500 people in need of HIV specialised care and support.
As the country accelerates progress towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, the COE will see GPH having a separate and private OI/ ART centre for effective HIV treatment and care.
Services offered at the COE will include HIV prevention (free HIV testing and counselling), comprehensive HIV care for adults and children living with HIV, onsite laboratory and pharmaceutical services.
Previously, the services were offered in one cramped office that didn’t give people any privacy.
OIs are illnesses that occur more frequently and are more severe in people with HIV. Today, OIs are less common in people with HIV because of effective HIV treatment.
The COE is a one stop shop with consultation rooms and a built-in pharmacy where patients will get all the services under one roof.
The construction of the COE was funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Zimbabwe in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoCC).
AHF Zimbabwe is supporting the MoCC in establishing COEs across the country.
The GPH COE will also provide quality and affordable health services to People Living with HIV & AIDS (PLWHA) with complex medical conditions who are referred from across the Midlands province.
The Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Larry Mavima commissioned the OI/ART COE at the health institution on behalf of the Acting President Chiwenga who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care.
In a speech read on his behalf by Minister Mavima, Acting President Chiwenga said the Second Republic ably led by President Mnangagwa is spearheading development across all sectors as guided by Vision 2030.
He said the said vision is currently being made operational by the National Development Strategy (NDS 1) which is running from 2021 through to 2025 and the access to quality health services is one of the paramount deliverables.
“We are gathered here to witness the results of our national vision where the tangible output of a modern One- Stop-health services shop has been successfully constructed and subsequently fully equipped. The health facility was developed following the establishment of a mutual partnership between the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the development partner AHF,” said Acting President Chiwenga.
He said the agreement for the setting up of the COE came about through the realisation that the existing infrastructure is now inadequate in view of the increased demand in OI/ ART and other health services.
“This was indeed compromising on the quality of services especially in terms of patients’ confidentiality and now that this facility has been developed, I urge everyone, especially men to improve their health seeking behaviour.
“HIV and AIDS is a major public health issue in Zimbabwe but however as a country, we have made significant progress in the HIV care and treatment programmes over the last decade,” said the Acting President.
He said the increase in the number of clients on ART over the last decade has been achieved through use of standard and simplified treatment guidelines and standard training curriculum, community mobilisation, political commitment and effective partnerships like the one witnessed at GPH.
The development, Acting President Chiwenga said is a clear indication of the fruits of President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement strategy. “In deed this also demonstrates the unity of purpose and cooperation as we make the NDS 1 operational. As the MoHCC, we are very grateful to AHF for constructing the state of the art COE at GPH valued around US$200 000. This is quite in line with the Government’s quest for promotion of investors through PPPs (public-private partnerships). I want to take this opportunity to challenge all other private entities to emulate the gesture shown by AHL,” he said.
Acting President Chiwenga said the Government was alive to the need to improve the conditions of service for health workers and all civil servants.
“As we celebrate this achievement of the expansion and improvement of the quality of health care services, let’s also be cognisant of the commitment and efforts by the Second Republic towards the improvement of health care workers and all other civil servant’s welfare. In spite of the current international economic challenges, our Government continues to review the salaries and other benefits of its workforce,” he said.
“I also want to express the Government’s gratitude towards the committed health care workers and all other civil servants who have continued to work for their own country.”
The Acting President bemoaned the abuse of drugs by youths.
“As we celebrate the opening of the OI/ART COE I remain seized with concern over the surge in substance abuse by our youths.
“This hospital on average attends 12 cases per month. I therefore call upon all stakeholders to put our heads together and do something about this scourge. Let me challenge the Medical Superintendent (Dr Fabian Mashingaidze) and his team to put this facility to good use,” he said.
AHF director of quality management and clinical operations, Dr Nduduzo Dube, addressing the same delegates, said the foundation has aligned its programmes to feed into Zimbabwe’s National Health Strategy which aims at improving the health and well-being of the population.
He said AHF feeds into the Zimbabwe National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan 2021-2025 which seeks to accelerate progress towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
“AHF Zimbabwe is spearheading the process of transforming the OI/ART clinics at key Central Hospitals and Provincial Hospitals into Centres of Excellence in terms of HIV treatment and care. We have also made structural renovations at different sites; we are currently supporting OI clinics at Parirenyatwa, Mpilo and Sally Mugabe central hospitals. We are also supporting Victoria Chitepo, Gwanda and here at Gweru Provincial hospital,” said Dr Dube.
Dr Mashingaidze said they have a total of 3 600 people registered to receive HIV treatment and care at GPH.
“We have 3 600 people registered to receive HIV treatment and care. The number keeps growing every day and the new facility is a welcome development as it will above all give privacy to people seeking HIV treatment and care,” he said.
AHF board member Ms Diana Hoorzuk said the foundation is providing medical care and treatment services to 45 countries worldwide of which 13 of these countries are in Africa including Zimbabwe.
“Up to date, AHF is supporting care and treatment of over 1,6 million patients in partnership with Governments in the different countries. In Zimbabwe the foundation started operating in 2016,” she said.