US to maintain, increase HIV funding levels in Zimbabwe

Ambassador Harry Thomas with members of the U.S. based acapella group, Street Corner Symphony at the OK- PEPFAR First Street Stage on Friday, Zimbabwe. (Pic: Weza Sizani)

Sharon Kavhu

The United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Harry K. Thomas, has said his country will maintain and increase HIV funding levels in Zimbabwe despite a change in administration.

This comes as United States President Donald Trump announced that US funding in African countries was going to be reduced.

In a statement, Thomas said: “We are very heartened that our Congress just passed the budget within the last few days and our President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding is remaining constant. In fact, it will likely grow to almost $150 next year,” said Ambassador Thomas.

“This means we are able to continue saving lives through PEPFAR as well as feed about 2.4 million people a day in Zimbabwe through other assistance programmes.

“International aid has not been affected. Congress did not cut international aid.”

Ambassador Thomas also made the same remarks while addressing journalists during Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) tour of the OK-PEPFAR First Street Stage, which ended recently.

The US Embassy HIFA stand provided a platform for several organizations working on HIV and health related issues to showcase their work through edutainment where global musical groups performed.  Among them were US acapella group, The Street Corner Symphony.

“We think music, education, fun saves lives,” added the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe.

“Despite tremendous success in reducing HIV incidence in Zimbabwe from 2.63 percent to 0.48 percent since 2000, we still need to educate people, especially the young.  Young people enjoy education that comes in with entertainment as well, you cannot just preach to them for hours without providing entertainment.  These people should have a good time at the same time learning.”

Since 2006, PEPFAR has provided nearly US$800 million to Zimbabwe for HIV interventions.  Over the past two years, PEPFAR’s allocation of resources have been focused on achieving the greatest impact to reach epidemic control by focusing new and renewed efforts in geographic areas with the highest burden of disease.

“These areas are home to at least 80 percent of Zimbabweans living with HIV, and receive a comprehensive package of HIV services tailored by age, sex and risk for their populations. In 2016, PEPFAR reached over 1.9 million individuals with HIV testing and counselling services and expects to reach over 2.5 million individuals in 2017 through revised strategies such as index testing (contact tracing), innovative interventions such as HIV self-testing to reach older men and young adults, and a short-term surge in human resources to increase provider-initiated testing and counselling in facilities in 2017,” explained Mark Troger, PEPFAR Zimbabwe Coordinator.

May 2017
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