By Kudakwashe Pembere
ZIMBABWE is mum on having a National Transition Plan to guide the financing of HIV/AIDS programs in the event donor funders pull out their spending in the health sector.
About 1.1 million People living with HIV dread this fateful day as they are on the antiretroviral treatment which should be taken for life.
This emerged at a Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC) and Health Communicators Forum organised Media Cafe where Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS Activist Union Community Trust deputy secretary general Ms Angeline Chiwetani was addressing health journalists.
She bemoaned the poor health financing despite the nation having its own AIDS Levy.
The Finance Ministry last week gave the Health Ministry a 12.2 percent allocation on the 2022 National Budget.
“The reason why I say Zimbabwe’s health system is down, is 85 percent are external funds. So its like a father next door is taking care of us. Imagine what will happen if this next door father wakes up and leave us in the bare. The reason why I cry out on this one is we have people on treatment like myself, say 1.2 million. If such a number is on treatment, we would want to check how many are getting Government’s support. You will be shocked to learn they are supporting maybe 2000 or 200 000. Or even less. The majority get support from the partners,” she said.
Ms Chiwetani added it was distressing to not the deafening silence government has on the nation having a transitional plan.
“And why is our Government silent on having a transitional plan. The reason of having a transitional plan is to safeguard yourselves in case the partners walk out one day. I have always said this but they are giving a deaf ear. Why I always say that, it’s because I sit on the UN platforms, I also sit on the Commitees Delegation to the Global Fund. This issues are being said day in, day out. So imagine,” she said. “I would like to share an experience from Macedonia. We went to Macedonia on the Commitees Delegation to the Global Fund. It was just pathetic because they didnt have a transitional plan in the country. Global Fund had to pack their bags and go. Imagine all the people on treatment, they just moved and went. There was not even a plan to say where will our people get the ART. Isn’t it you would have killed a lot of people.”
She said she has been lobbying the Government and Parliamentarians to see to it that this Transitional Plan is established.
” If you start ARVs, its for life. There is no holiday. These are the issues our Governments want to hear each time we report that we need a transitional plan. A few months ago, I went around the country following up on the Parliamentarians’ prebudget meetings or dialogues. For the past three years, I make sure that I make noise around the transitional plan. But they are blind to this issue. I noticed what happened in Macedonia where we lost a lot of colleagues. We dont want the same thing to happen here. This is why we share the information that we have, that the news around the different boards is about transition,” Ms Chiwetani said.
Ms Chiwetani also said it is wishful thinking to claim ending AIDS by 2030 if Zimbabwe neglects its health funding obligation.
“We are saying ending AIDS by 2030, if only you knew what it means. You just keep quiet. Dont join the trumpet. Look at the funding partners. They have slowly shifted and are now focussing on COVID-19. When you approach them they say they are foccussing on COVID 19. When this will end pandemic, nobody knows. They are saying, results (on AIDS), as a country we are doing well, so they are changing the focus. What are we doing thereafter. Come 2030, how are we going to manage.
“These are the real things we need to focus on as a country. This is an issue affecting everyone. If such a scenario happens imagine what will happen to people living with HIV. As a person on First Line ART, I may manage the USD25 on a monthly basis but those on Second Line which requires USD60 and the USD100 for third line. The 2nd and 3rd lines are hard to come by. How are they going to manage?,” she said.