Mukudzei Chingwere, Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe will use the opportunity of hosting the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa in 2023 (ICASA 2023) to sharpen and re-invigorate the national responses to HIV, President Mnangagwa said to mark today’s commemorations of the world AIDS day.
This day is set aside globally on December 1 to galvanise collective efforts to end new HIV infection by 2030 and to remember those who succumbed to the virus.
The theme of this year’s commemorations is “Equalise”, which resonates with Government’s quest of implementing multi-pronged development programmes, projects and policy interventions that leave no one and no place behind.
The President said that the Zimbabwean theme was “access, empowerment, inclusivity, opportunities and the upholding of human rights”. This highlighted the focus towards a holistic approach to tackling HIV and its results.
Zimbabwe has won the commendation of the United Nations for achieving global AIDS targets, and the President noted that through the successes of the Second Republic’s engagement and re-engagement policy, other countries will converge in Zimbabwe for the ICASA.
As they converge, President Mnangagwa says the country will take the opportunity to advance its HIV response in pursuit of global best practices.
The hosting of the conference comes at a time when Government has set itself the target of improving the quality of the country’s health delivery system to levels that are in sync with an upper middle-income economy by 2030 for the populace’s benefit.
“In recognition of the Second Republic’s engagement and re-engagement policy, Zimbabwe won the bid to host the 2023 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa,” said President Mnangagwa.
“We will leverage on this Conference to sharpen and re-invigorate our national responses to HIV/AIDS. The conference has enormous economic potential for tourism, creative cultural industries, transport and financial service sectors, among others. I urge our business and industry to begin now to prepare our country to host a successful event.”
This year’s AIDS Day commemorations are occurring when the country is emerging from challenging times associated with the negative effects of Covid-19, compounded by climate change as well as the effects of illegal sanctions.
He commended the focused and robust response by the health sector and stakeholders on HIV/AIDS.
“This has seen our country achieve the current 95-95-95 targets well ahead of the 2025 target date. It is encouraging that the prevalence rate continues to decline, with new infections dropping from 31 600 in 2018 to 22 800 in 2021.
“Relatedly, the number of people dying from HIV/AIDS dropped from 25 200 to 20 200 during the same period. We are not yet where we want to be: more work must be done. To date, it is noteworthy that more than 98 percent of people who know their HIV status are now on treatment,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said Government is committed to addressing inequalities related to access, control and use of HIV-related services, including increasing the availability of quality and suitable services for HIV prevention and treatment.
President Mnangagwa reiterated that stigma, discrimination and exclusion of people living with HIV had no place in the Zimbabwean society.
He warned that child marriages and violence against women will dealt with decisively as it impacts on the progress made in teh fight against HIV.
“It is our collective responsibility, right from the family level and across all sectors, to deal with specific HIV infection drivers.
“Child marriages, violence against women and other culture-driven practices that put men, women and children at risk and drive new infections, must be decisively tackled. As a nation, let us never shy away from enforcing and nurturing high moral standards and value systems across the society, beginning with us the adults, down to our children and the youths.”
He decried the presence of Non-Communicable Diseases, with association to HIV, which are now reaching higher levels. Everyone should be screened and seek early treatment.
Article Source: The Chronicle