THE Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) has called for action aimed at addressing access and utilisation of HIV and Aids services by people living with HIV.
This comes at a time the country recently joined the world in commemorating the World Aids Day, which is running under the theme “Equalise”, which is a call to action to address inequalities being experienced largely by most at risk and left out groups of HIV positive persons.
Speaking at the 30th National Candlelight Memorial event on the eve of the World Aids Day commemorations in Marondera last Wednesday ZNNP+ national executive council chairperson Marshal Makorovodo: “Our call is for action to address issues affecting us, such as addressing the, increasing access to advanced HIV disease services given the increase in the number of people living with HIV being diagnosed with advanced HIV disease. Rolling out comprehensive stigma reduction initiatives as outlined in the 2022 stigma index.”
The candlelight memorial is held in remembrance of people who have lost their lives due to HIV and Aids as well as honouring those who have dedicated their lives to helping people living with and affected by HIV who have continuously mobilised communities to continue the struggle for equality, dignity, and access to quality health services.
“We call for the removal of user fees by their various names and functions which continue to promote unequal access to services by people living with HIV,” Makorovodo said.
“There is need for the continued increase in domestic financing of the healthcare sector to ensure sustainability and guaranteed access to HIV, TB treatment, care and support services.”
ZNNP+ executive director T Makoni said more still needs to be done to make sure that AIDS is eradicated by 2030.
“Significant progress has been made in the response with more people living with HIV being on treatment than ever before,” Makoni said.
“We have strong prevention, care and support programme that are the envy of many.
“However, there is still more to be done to ensure that we end AIDS by 2030.’
He said it was important for efforts to be redoubled to ensure that all barriers to equity and equality in accessing HIV-related services are put in place.
“It is our call that as we drive for the last mile, we address key issues such as equitable access to HIV testing particularly for the most at risk, viral load testing, early infant diagnostics, and advanced HIV disease services,” Makoni said.
“Stigma and discrimination is one other key barrier that we still need to address and it is unfortunate that the 2022 Stigma Index Study found that stigma has increased to 69,7% from 65% in 2014.
“We are at the cusp of ending AIDS, but for us to get there we need, we need to re-evaluate and re-double efforts to ensure that all barriers to equity and equality are removed.”
Zimbabwe has already achieved and surpassed the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target on HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression.