…sex workers to receive greater HIV prevention support
The United States President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced the launch of two new projects worth a combined US$78 million to provide critical HIV healthcare services for over half a million Zimbabweans.
The two projects, which were announced by USAID Zimbabwe mission director Art Brown on November 03, affirm commitment by the US to improved healthcare in the country through increased financial support for the sector.
“The United States is proud to stand with the people of Zimbabwe to address HIV. 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.
“We are also working to reach 95 percent of the estimated 40,000 female sex workers in Zimbabwe to help reduce HIV infections, provide onsite initiation of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), and transfer clients to public sector facilities,” Brown said in a statement.
Under the programs, USAID will for the next five years work with the Organization for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID) to provide care and treatment services for more than half a million people living with HIV at 700 health facilities in 24 districts.
It was announced that OPHID will expand client-centered 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.
Through a one-year program, USAID and the Center for Sexual Health, HIV and AIDS Research (CeSHHAR) will help close the remaining gaps in HIV prevention and care for sex workers in the five hotspot districts of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, and Masvingo.
Zimbabwe’s border posts with Mozambique, Botswana, and Zambia will also be covered.
Working directly with female sex workers, USAID will reduce new HIV infections through increasing the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms as well as other emerging prevention technologies.
US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols said the new programs will go a long way in helping Zimbabwe meet its HIV and Aids prevention and treatment targets.
“PEPFAR’s efforts to fight HIV will 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.
Since PEPFAR’s support for Zimbabwe began in 2006, more than US$1.2 billion has been channeled to HIV and Aids prevention and treatment, leading to an 80 percent decline in the annual number of HIV-related deaths.
Over one million Zimbabweans who are HIV positive are accessing free-of-charge antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) courtesy of PEPFAR.