THE United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) yesterday launched two US$78 million projects earmarked to provide critical HIV healthcare services to over half a million Zimbabweans.
BY SHARON SIBINDI
These projects will also be supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAid) and will target 40 000 female sex workers in the country in order to minimise the spread of HIV.
USAid and the Center for Sexual Health, HIV and Aids Research (CeSHHAR) said they would help close the gaps in HIV prevention and care for sex workers in the five hotspot districts of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo and the three border posts with Mozambique, Botswana, and Zambia.
“Together with our partners, USAid is ensuring that people living with HIV can start treatment early, adhere to treatment, reach viral load suppression, and live longer, healthier lives,” The US Public Affairs Department said in a statement.
“We are also working to reach 95% of the estimated 40 000 female sex workers in Zimbabwe to help reduce HIV infections, provide on-site initiation of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), and transfer clients to public sector facilities,” they said.
They said the two programmes would provide care and treatment services for more than half a million people living with HIV at 700 health facilities in 24 districts, for the next five years.
“OPHID will expand client-centred services in facilities and communities and train more than 12 000 healthcare workers on innovative models to increase testing, ART initiation and adherence, and viral load testing.
“USAid and OPHID will support the development of national level policy, strategy, and healthcare guidelines, which the Ministry of Health and Child Care will cascade to the whole country.”
The two programmes aim to work directly with sex workers to encourage the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms, and other emerging prevention technologies.
US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said PEPFAR’s efforts to fight HIV would ultimately help Zimbabwe meet critical Aids treatment targets.
“Our support breaks barriers and closes remaining gaps in sustaining and accelerating HIV prevention and care,” Nichols said.
Since PEPFAR’s inception in Zimbabwe in 2006, the US invested more than US$1,2 billion which has led to an 80% decline in the annual number of HIV-related deaths, with more than 1,15 million Zimbabweans currently on lifesaving antiretroviral medicines.