Zimbabwe launches free to shine campaign to end AIDS

Statement by Mr. Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe as delivered on 29 August 2018 in Harare, at the launch of the "Zimbabwe free to shaine campaign" towards AIDS free generation

  • Your Excellency, the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa
  • Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Harare Metropolitan Province Hon. Miriam Chikukwa
  • Acting Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Gibson Mhlanga
  • National and International Development Partners represented here
  • My colleagues from the UN family
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning and thank you for extending invitation the United Nations to join you on the launch of “Zimbabwe Free to Shine Campaign” to end HIV and AIDS. Very timely and befitting theme.

The United Nations strategic engagement in Zimbabwe is guided by the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Zimbabwe UN Development Assistance Framework, better known as ZUNDAF.

Through the ZUNDAF, the UN supports six national development results of which fighting HIV and AIDS is a major result, evident by 38% of the overall expenditures of over US$ 931 million between Jan 2016 to 30 June 2018.

The UN will continue supporting the Organization of the African First Ladies (OAFLA) against HIV/AIDS initiative, including the domestication of the African Union’s campaign to prioritize children, adolescents and mothers in the fight HIV and AIDS initiative and the subsequent launch in Zimbabwe. Let me seize this opportunity to congratulate First Lady of Zimbabwe, HE Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa on her engagement and proactive leadership in this regard.

Your Excellency:

HIV and AIDS remains a major public health challenge in Zimbabwe. Current estimates indicate that there are 1.3 million people with HIV and that, despite many prevention efforts, there are 32,000 annual new infections in the country.

The national HIV and AIDS response with the support of the UN, Global Fund, PEPFAR, and other development partners have been comparatively strong, with current coverage of people on treatment being 87% (or nearly 1.2 million people) and almost 3 million HIV tests done annually, accompanied by the Treat All policy, which Zimbabwe adopted last year.

As part of this, the UN supports the provision of antiretroviral prophylaxis for HIV-exposed infants, resulting in 70% coverage of the identified infants in need of this treatment, thereby contributing towards the elimination of Mother to Child Transmission.

The UN also supported the development of a five-year plan to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV and Syphilis in Zimbabwe, which articulates the strategic direction to be taken by the country.

Furthermore, we are pleased that the Global Fund has accepted the inclusion of a prevention component focusing on Adolescent Girls and Young Women as well as Key Populations as part of the new grant.

All these interventions are critical in supporting the Free to Shine initiative to end childhood AIDS and keep mothers healthy.

Your Excellency:

With the high HIV testing and prevention of mother to child transmission coverage, Zimbabwe remains one of the top five leading HIV responses in the world showing a reduction by more than half of the transmission rates from mothers to children over the past 3 years.

Innovative and community grounded advocacy efforts, such as this inspiring launch, are needed to achieve the “last mile” reduction to zero by disseminating and utilizing lessons learnt, turning Zimbabwe into a centre of excellence for HIV research and innovation.

This outstanding initiative, coupled with other national and international commitments, will ensure Zimbabwe continues to demonstrate high-level leadership and commitment to the revitalization of the prevention agenda and to close the tap on HIV by addressing key populations including adolescents and young people.

Expanding HIV testing and counselling among pregnant women is critical for identifying those in need of follow-up care as well as increasing the coverage of subsequent interventions to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The progress Zimbabwe has made to accelerate the fight against HIV and AIDS provides hope to its people but there is still a long way to go. There is need to consistently ensure that people seek to know their status and treatment on time so that many more lives can be saved, particularly key populations.

The United Nations stands ready to play its role to make the Zimbabwe Free to Shine Campaign a formidable advocacy campaign to end the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe.