People living with HIV (PLHIV) have called on the government to commit more resources to the provision of essential health services that are accessible and affordable to marginalised communities.
BY AUDREY MUTASA
Speaking at commemorations to mark World Aids Day on Tuesday, PLHIV said they continued to face difficulties in accessing medication, which was sometimes unavailable at marginalised community health centres due to underfunding.
“The health sector is still facing challenges to compensate and fill up the gaps caused by lack of funding. Health centres across the country have introduced user fees in government hospitals and this in turn affects compliance and adherence,” PLHIV said in a joint statement prepared by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme and Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV+.
“Zimbabwe, which had one of the highest prevalence rates in the world, has remarkably reduced the number of Aids-related deaths and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 80%.”
People living with HIV also pleaded for the government to reserve 15% of the National Budget to the health sector as per the Abuja Declaration of 2001.
“Diagnostic services, namely, tuberculosis screening and X-ray, are unavailable in some rural areas. Central government, therefore, needs to recommit itself to facilitate the highest attainable standard of health including treatment, care and support for people living with HIV.”
In rural areas, there were poor follow-up services to defaulters because health centres are under-resourced to conduct follow ups.
However, PLHIV also acknowledged the efforts made by the government to increase domestic funding for health by allocating 8,25% to health in the 2016 National Budget from less than 6,5% in the previous year.
They said they were expecting changes in the manner in which medication is distributed.
Though they credited the government for helping them, PLHIV recommended the involvement of other stakeholders such as Zimbabwe National HIV and Aids Strategic Plan in the planning, implementation and decision-making of fiscal and budget processes, so as to create a culture of transparency and accountability.
World Aids Day is commemorated annually on December 1 and is an opportunity for every community to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV and remember those who have died.
Experts said ending the Aids epidemic by 2030 was possible, but only by closing the gap between people with access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and those being left behind.