By MUNYARADZI CHIMWARA
The United States Government, through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has pledged USD223,900,000 towards Zimbabwe’s fight against HIV and TB. In a letter addressed to the US Envoy to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Brian A. Nichols, the PEPFAR Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah L. Birx MD, acknowledged the country team’s efforts to translate PEPFAR resources into “effective and impactful programming.”
The funding which comes in COP20 will go towards PEPFAR’s 95-95-95 targets. Globally, the 90-90-90 are the UNAIDS ambitious treatment targets to help end the AIDS epidemic. It also represents a momentous opportunity to lay the foundation for a healthier, more just and equitable world for future generations. In its quest to ending the AIDS epidemic, PEPFAR set the 95-95- 95 targets in a bid to inspire broader local health and evidence-based action and civil society partnerships.
Ambassador Deborah L. Birx commended Zimbabwe for its efforts towards epidemic control against a dire socio-economic environment. Zimbabwe achieved major gains in HIV diagnosis demonstrated by a 91% of estimated persons living with HIV (PLHIV) who are diagnosed. With PEPFAR contributing significantly to the country’s ART procurement, 86% of people living with HIV are now on treatment.
The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) with support from PEPFAR and in collaboration with civil society organisations coordinated by The Advocacy Core Team (ACT) continue to make great strides in the AIDS & TB response evidenced by progress made over 16 years of PEPFAR implementation in Zimbabwe.
Despite the global efforts by financial partners and civil society organisations working in communities, Zimbabwe still struggles with a harsh economic environment that has crippled its health sector. In recent months, doctors and nurses have downed tools at major referral hospitals citing low remuneration and poor working conditions. Public health institutions continue to suffer under depressed incomes and low government budgetary support. The situation has also been worsen by the gazetting of new hospital fees with effect from 1 January 2020.
In 2015, global leaders committed to achieving SDG3.3 which is geared towards ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. Since 2016, the Government of Zimbabwe and civil society organisations with resources from PEPFAR and Global Fund (GF) has focused on achieving these global goals. In her letter, the PEPFAR Global AIDS Coordinator acknowledged that, “many countries have made tremendous progress towards these targets and others need to accelerate. Zimbabwe is on track to achieve the 2020 and 2030 goals if specific programmatic gaps are addressed.”
In the last 4 COP cycles PEPFAR support has been based on performance and needs as articulated by civil society groups and the Government of Zimbabwe. Annually, CSOs engage the PEPFAR Country Team with priorities identified through multi-sectoral nation consultations. These priorities form the basis on which PEPFAR will support the AIDS and TB response in Zimbabwe. The Advocacy Core Team (ACT), under its COMPASS Project has been supporting and coordinating CSO’s priorities identification programme across the country.