Let’s not lose focus in our efforts to end HIV/Aids
Address by President Mnangagwa at the official opening of the 24th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa
It is my singular honour and privilege to address you at this official opening ceremony for the 24th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa.
On behalf of the Government and people of Zimbabwe, I wish to express my profound gratitude for the opportunity accorded to Zimbabwe to host this very important Conference, for the second time.
I hope you have found the facilities and arrangements suitable for a successful meeting.
In view of the growing incidences of epidemics and conflicts, coupled with the negative impact of climate change; this conference is most opportune as it allows us to reflect on our ongoing responses to HIV/AIDS at both the continental and global levels.
The theme, “AIDS is Not Over, Address Inequalities, Accelerate Inclusion and Innovation”, is a befitting reminder on the need to remain focused and avoid complacency. We must, thus keep our eyes on the ball and consolidate the milestones we have achieved over the years.
The 2022 report by the United nations AIDS clearly reflects that AIDS continues to claim lives and is a call for continued action.
Regrettably, new HIV infections continue to be prevalent among women, who accounted for 63 percent of all new infections, while new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, remain widespread in sub-Saharan Africa.
We should never relax; AIDS is not over. The pandemic remains one of the salient threats to sustainable socio-economic development.
It is, however, commendable that we have made progress and positive outcomes through our robust interventions which are infusing the hope that we can indeed eliminate AIDS.
Many countries in Africa, including Zimbabwe, have already achieved the 95-95-95 fast track targets. This is applauded, congratulations.
In the case of Zimbabwe, between 2018 and 2022, our country managed to reduce new HIV infections as well as AIDS related deaths.
We are committed to addressing the gaps and inequalities that exist in access to HIV services to sustain this progress and push-back the HIV frontiers, to end AIDS by 2030.
It is also critically important to ensure that both adolescent girls and boys as well as young women have unfettered and equal access to HIV services.
Equally, there is need to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic holistically, including through addressing matters to do with guaranteeing food security and nutrition of our communities beginning at the household level.
Let us, therefore, implement robust and responsive sustainable development programmes and projects to lift more of our people out of poverty and eradicate inequalities that may be triggers to new HIV infections, especially among most at risk groups.
Encouraging early testing and promoting adherence to treatment, as well as fighting stigma and discrimination remain key aspects to reversing silence and untreated infections. In addition, it is imperative to sustain focus on social and cultural practices that increase risk and exposure of women and children to HIV.
Ladies and Gentlemen; Our success of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 is imminent. It is encouraging that the Society for AIDS in Africa, have responded to the urgent realities of the time and ever-changing health environment.
I, therefore, commend you for expanding the scope of the Conference to include discussions on key thematic areas such as pathways for Leadership in HIV and AIDS initiatives; building resilience and sustainable HIV prevention programming, along with other emergencies and epidemics.
The recent COVID-19 and on-going threats of Ebola as well as other tropical diseases have taught us the need for integration of these and other responses, underpinned by the principle of Universal Health Coverage.
As a continent, we must harness our rich and diverse flora and fauna endowment through the deployment of science, technology and innovation, to establish a vibrant African Traditional Medicines’ pharmaceutical industry.
We must, as Africa, never shy away from building-on our rich African knowledge systems and God given resources to have scientifically viable medical products and solutions for our communities.
Through such an approach, we should reverse the high disease burden and related mortality on our continent.
For us in Zimbabwe, our national development philosophy is “Nyika inovakwa, inotongwa, ino namatigwa nevene vayo, Ilizwe lakhiwa libuswe, likhulekelwe ngabanikazi balo’. This simply means that “a country is built, governed and prayed for by its own people”.
As the people of this great continent, we must build our respective countries and proffer the solutions needed to address our challenges.
Others from elsewhere should come to help and complement us, based on our own developmental priorities.
Hence, the mantra “African solutions for African problems” must transcend to the manner we address epidemics and other existential threats of our times.
Intra-Africa collaboration must be deepened and partnerships with the private sector and development partners, harnessed to leap forward our response.
Distinguished Delegates; Conferences, meetings and workshops alone are not enough if they are not backed by deliberate and concrete action plans to promote and achieve HIV funding sustainability.
Here in Zimbabwe, the National AIDS Trust Fund has contributed over 30 percent of all our treatment needs and financed various prevention and coordination interventions. We are available to share key lessons learnt, through this approach.
Zimbabwe is open for business and ready to welcome investments, joint ventures, partnerships and innovations for the manufacture as well as distribution of medical equipment, medicines and consumables, among other requirements.
Finally, on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, I once again express our gratitude to the organisers, partners and supporters of this conference for giving us the opportunity to host this event.
I invite you all to explore our magnificent tourism destinations and attractions, which include the mighty Victoria Falls, ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders’, which is hosting the ICASA High-Level Meetings, the Great Zimbabwe Monument, Matopo Hills and the Eastern Highlands, among others.
With these remarks, it is now my singular honour and pleasure to declare the 24th Edition of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa officially opened.
I wish you all a memorable, successful and productive conference.
God bless you all.
I thank you.