HARARE – Zimbabwe projects to save the lives of about 60 000 people living with HIV when it receives a record $311 million three-year grant from the Global Fund on HIV and Aids expected to be disbursed soon.
In an exclusive interview with BizDay in Harare recently, Tatiana Shoumilina, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Country Co-ordinator for Zimbabwe, said the investment would also avert an average 20 000 new infections in infants as well as stopping the deaths of 5000 children exposed to HIV.
Shoumilina said the huge investment was recognition of the Zimbabwe’s willingness to play its part in paying to reduce HIV-related deaths and curbing new infections through the AIDS levy, as well as its capability to account for donor funds on HIV and Aids.
“The whole grant is to support Zimbabwe’s efforts to keep people alive and to prevent new infections,” said Shoumilina.
While most of the investment would be on anti-retroviral drugs (ART), part of it would go to curbing mother-to-child transmissions; stepping up programmes such as male circumcision and the promotion of behavioral change, as well as increasing access to HIV testing and counseling.
The grant would also cover health and community systems strengthening. These include increasing health worker retention schemes and the mobilization for safer sexual practices. Part of this involves programmes targeted at sex workers, many of whom are drawn into prostitution because of poverty.
Said Shoumilina: “This is a very good investment … it is not a deficient investment in any way. This investment is covering the most urgent needs. It is very solid and very solidly planned.”
She said while emphasis on behavioral change in the past might have concentrated more on promoting single partnerships, it should now shift to encouraging the consistent, efficient and widespread use of condoms. The new thrust should not be about “counting the number of partners, but to count the number of consistent condom use”.
“The condom is the most efficacious way of preventing infection. Why are we concerned more about reducing the number of partners than on consistent and efficient use of condoms?”
On that regard, she said, one way of ensuring “consistent and efficient” use of condoms would be to regularly check the quality of brands available locally. Research in other countries had shown that many users did not know how to test the strength, reliability and efficiency of the various condoms available.