‘Reforms to ensure universal health access’

Address by the President, Mnangagwa at the eve of the World Aids Day commemorations on 30 November 2021 in Harare

Fellow countrymen; ladies and gentlemen; comrades and friends.

Tomorrow, our great country Zimbabwe joins the comity of nations in commemorating World AIDS Day. The day offers world an important opportunity to re-double efforts towards ending the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The HIV and AIDS pandemic remains one of the major developmental challenges facing the nation.

The theme for this year “End Inequalities’; End AIDS; End Pandemics” is apt and resonates with the obtaining realities where-upon the entire global community is seized with the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

I applaud citizens and members of the progressive world for supporting my Government in confronting the pandemic head on. As a result of responsive scientific-based measures, notable successes have been realised towards stabilising the spread of Covid-19.

However, the war is not yet over, more so against the discovery of the new omicron variant. I, thus, appeal to all the people of our country to remain vigilant and steadfast and to continue to up-hold Covid-19 preventative protocols. As has been the case since the onset of the pandemic, the supremacy of life, science based data, patterns and trends, will inform our national response, now and into the future.

The prevalence of Covid-19, HIV and AIDS as well as the new threats of other non-communicable diseases among other health concerns cannot be addressed in silos.

There is need for an integrated multi-sectoral approach that relies on robust, resilient health systems and an enabling social, economic and policy environment. To this end, my Government has pursued reforms in the health sector and scaled up renovations and construction of new health facilities across the country to ensure universal health access and coverage.

I commend health service sector players, both public and private, for the tremendous progress recorded over the course of the year. In this regard, Zimbabwe has managed to reduce the incidence rate of HIV from 0,48 percent in 2016 to 0,27 percent in 2020, while the prevalence rate has dropped from 13,9percent to 11,8 percent during the same period. The expanded access to antiretroviral therapy is up from 800 000 in 2016 to 1,2 million in 2021. These indicators are a step in the right direction and deserve commendation.

The Zimbabwe Population based HIV Impact Survey and the Global AIDS Monitoring Report, confirms these achievements. Going forward we are determined to use this solid base and build upon it towards pursuing the 95-95-95 targets by 2025. My administration will continue to avail resources in support of the sector for the attainment of these ambitious and yet achievable targets.

I urge us as a nation to stay the course, build greater resilience and work concertedly with unity of purpose to end AIDS by 2030, as envisioned by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the National Development Strategy 1.

Fellow countrymen and women; It is disheartening that the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, has curtailed access to treatment and other essential services for people living with HIV as well as HIV prevention services. In response, my Government introduced various innovative differentiated service delivery models to ameliorate the situation. These include: Multi-month drug dispensing. Community Anti-Retroviral Therapy Refill Groups; Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters and Community Anti-Retroviral Treatment and Care Facilitators.

These interventions are positively contributing to adherence, treatment outcomes and reduced levels of stigma and discrimination. I call upon the health sector to scale up these programmes to allow communities to have full access and relevant services across all parts of the country, leaving no-one and no place behind.

Riding on ICT enabled solutions and platforms, I challenge the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the National AIDS Council and other partners in the national response, to innovate and introduce more interventions to halt the spread of HIV. In that regard, the thrust should target more adolescent girls and boys, artisanal miners and other high risk population groups.

Fellow Countrymen and Women; Access to ownership and control of the means of production remains one key aspect towards reversing social inequalities, which are critical drivers of the spread of HIV and AIDS.

In line with this year’s theme, my Government will continue to embark on broad based and inclusive empowerment programmes. The judicious exploitation of natural resources as well as the multi-pronged development programmes will undoubtedly accelerate our quest for equalised development, thereby reducing the risk, susceptibility and vulnerability of our communities, to HIV and AIDS.

To achieve this objective, my Government will revitalise and re-energise high impact HIV prevention interventions.

The use of precision targeting; sharpening our focus with regards to diagnosing people with HIV through innovative approaches; linking infected people to Anti-Retroviral Treatment and supporting them to achieve viral load suppression; all remain key priority areas. We will continue to strengthen integrated approaches targeting all pandemics.

I am fully aware that our ambitious pursuit to end AIDS, inequalities and other pandemics will require more resources. To this end, the AIDS Levy remains the primary funding source. Efforts to widen the scope of local resource mobilisation are also being pursued.

Meanwhile, I call upon the international community to end the isolation of Zimbabwe and remove the illegal sanctions, which have hamstrung our ability to fully achieve our economic potential as well as improve the social conditions of our people.

In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and inspired by this our “Decade of Action”, we must end AIDS and other pandemics now!

Fellow countrymen and women; As we enhance our response to the pandemics, we have to ensure that we integrate climate change, which is likely to be a source of future pandemics. During the recently held COP 26, my Government made various commitments to ameliorate climate change and will, thus, roll-out the relevant plans of action to build greater resilience.

Finally, I would like to thank the National AIDS Council and all our partners for their support of the national response and commendable work in 2021.

Together we will certainly “End inequalities; End AIDS; End pandemics”.

With these remarks, I wish the nation good health and successful World AIDS Day commemorations.

God bless you all. God bless Zimbabwe. I thank you.—Herald

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