29 March 2017
SOUTH African pop legend Yvonne Chaka Chaka has called on Africa to revitalise HIV prevention strategies in the wake of ‘complacency’ which she argued had seen the cases of new HIV infections rising.
The internationally recognised singer raised these sentiments last week during a revitalisation HIV combination prevention in Eastern and Southern region workshop which was held in Victoria Falls.
Yvonne said the rise in new HIV infections was already reversing the gains that had been made over the years since HIV was discovered in Africa, attributing the rise in new infections to complacency.
“There seems to be complacency now ever since the introduction of anti-retroviral treatment, which has seen HIV positive people being productive. We need to think again, why are people dying, why are we having more infections at a time when we now have anti-retroviral treatment which has made people more productive.
“How can Africa revitalise action collectively? 30 years ago people were dying of AIDS, they were bedridden and people were not productive during that era when one had AIDS. But now in an era where people can live productive lives with HIV, we still find ourselves as Africa, grappling with new HIV infections. Where are we really going wrong?”
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador for East and Southern Africa said Africa was not the ‘dark continent’ that was known for poverty and other struggles arguing that Africa had potential if it worked collectively.
She argued that political will could help the continent develop: “We need strong political will; our Governments should abide by the Abuja Declaration. Years on, how many countries have dedicated 15 percent of their budget towards health? We need this if we are to end AIDS.
“Africa is not the dark continent that everybody believes it is, we just need will power, we need to develop ourselves. People cannot walk miles to get medication, Let us ensure that no one is left behind. Let us not judge all the key populations, let us give them medication.
“We have shabby hospitals that we surely cannot expect them to give life, we should improve the quality of health care institutions in the continent,” she argued.
In the wake of dwindling donor funding, Yvonne called on Africa to harness local resources as they seek to end AIDS.
“We need to recognise that money from funders is running short, what do we do in the face of dwindling funding yet we have a mammoth task to end AIDS.
“Let us change the strategy, if need be, in order to bring down the cases of HIV infections, let us work together not to compete but to complete each other.”
Yvonne was part of the delegates who attended the expert meeting to fast-track HIV prevention implementation and to validate HIV prevention targets with 15 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region.
The meeting came as a follow up after the signing of a new commitment by Ministers of Health in the ESA region on revitalisation of prevention strategies during the 21st International Conference on Aids, which took place in Durban, South Africa last year.
The new ESA commitment came after realising that current HIV programming focused more on HIV treatment at the expense of prevention hence threatening the ending of AIDS.
Although the number of new HIV infections in Zimbabwe declined from about 1, 4 percent in the 1990s to the current 0,48 percent, Minister of Health and Child Care David Parirenyatwa bemoaned how Zimbabwe was still ranked among one of the high HIV burdened countries
The Health Minister said globally, the HIV prevention has also slowed down with the ESA region accounting for 46 percent of global new HIV infections in 2015.