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ZAN conference to boost HIV and Aids interventions

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Even though Zimbabwe as a country has been internationally applauded for successfully responding to and managing the HIV and Aids pandemic, the country still has the third largest HIV burden in Southern Africa.

Zimbabwe steadily declined in HIV prevalence among adults from 26,5 % in 1997 to 13,4% in 2010 demonstrating that joint efforts to manage the HIV and Aids plague were bearing fruit.

However, Zimbabwe has 1,2 million people living with HIV; and an estimated 49% of adults and children needing anti-retroviral therapy (ART) are unable to access treatment.

Against that backdrop, it is important to note that interventions have to be scaled up if more is to be achieved.

Several commitments and plans to achieve more are on the ground, however, political will, renewed vigour and budgetary support are required if national, regional and international commitments are to be met.

To this end, the Zimbabwe Aids Network (ZAN) — one of the key players that have been at the forefront of mobilising and organising the nation’s response to HIV and Aids — is planning a national conference in Masvingo tomorrow.

To be held under the theme Scaling Up, Owning And Sustaining Community Capacity In HIV Prevention, Access To Treatment, Care And Support Services, the conference is expected to draw more than 200 delegates from around the country.

Delegates will include ZAN civic society members, representatives from government, National Aids Council, funding and cooperating partners, and United Nations agencies among others.

ZAN national director Lindiwe Chaza Jangira said the conference would provide a learning experience and expertise-sharing platform with experts on maternal and child health (MCH), adolescent sexual reproductive health Rights (ASHR), HIV and Aids, disability and mental health presenting papers.

“This conference provides a great opportunity for sharing insights and lessons emerging from the various interventions being implemented by ZAN members in contribution to the national response to HIV and Aids,” she said.

“We hope that the outcome of the conference will empower communities to effectively respond to the epidemic in order to achieve zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths.

“Our conference will give us an opportunity to consolidate a shared vision and new strategic direction and strengthen linkages with national priorities,” Chaza Jangira said.

Secretary for Health and Child Welfare Gerald Gwinji said: “Children will have more chances of growing up healthy, becoming involved in education and ultimately contributing to our economic prosperity.

Women will enjoy healthier lives, better pregnancies and nurture stronger families. And men, as partners, husbands and fathers, will play an active role in maintaining and supporting healthy families with hope for the future.”

The ZAN conference will also place special emphasis on MCH, ASHR and HIV and Aids thematic areas as a build- up on ZAN’s new 2011-2013 “Community-Powered Response” Strategy which was launched in May 2011.

By focusing on those three thematic areas, the new strategy integrates the provision of health services using a gender lens.

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