Remarks by Robert Scott, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy
- The Honorable Minister of Health and Child Care
- The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care
- The National AIDS Council Board Members, Management, and Staff
- The Media
- Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great honor to gather with you today to participate in the launch of the Zimbabwe Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment – ZIMPHIA (Zim-fee-ah).
After more than 30 years of responding to the HIV epidemic, Zimbabwe is at a turning point where an AIDS-free generation and an end to AIDS deaths is not only possible but is in sight. For decades the Government of Zimbabwe, with support from the international community, has been working hard to control the HIV epidemic. We have seen HIV prevalence cut in half from nearly 30% to less than 15%. People living with HIV are living longer and over 850,000 Zimbabweans are taking life-saving treatment. HIV prevention efforts have been scaled-up at an impressive rate. Approximately 87.5% of infants born to HIV-positive women are HIV-negative at 18 months and over 500,000 Zimbabwean males have been circumcised through the national voluntary medical male circumcision program – an intervention proven to reduce the likelihood of HIV acquisition by more than 60%. The Ministry of Health and Child Care and the people of Zimbabwe should be proud of these successes and steps toward control of the HIV epidemic.
But these success stories are not enough. We can’t become complacent because there is more work to be done, and ZIMPHIA is essential to illuminate the opportunities in our collective response to HIV.
Why else is ZIMPHIA so important?
First, Zimbabwe is poised to lead the continent in generating new information that will be used to guide programs and policies to achieve an AIDS-free generation. ZIMPHIA is the first survey of its kind to be implemented worldwide. During the next three years the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will support similar surveys in 20 countries. Congratulations to Zimbabwe for leading the way and setting a high bar for these surveys. Not only will ZIMPHIA advance HIV insights, programming and policy in Zimbabwe, it will also serve as a template and example for other African countries that will conduct similar surveys in the coming years.
Second, to date, we’ve made decisions about HIV programs and policies based on clients who access the health system and seek services. But, what about people who aren’t coming for services? Who are they? Why aren’t they coming? Since ZIMPHIA is a national survey, and participants will be interviewed in their home, this is the first time that we have HIV risk, prevention, and service information from the community. This is exciting and essential as the Ministry of Health and Child Care continues to plan and prioritize focused and productive HIV programs in the coming year. To this end, ZIMPHIA is designed around the UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 goal. The nationally representative information obtained through ZIMPHIA will help guide the Ministry of Health and Child Care to develop and improve programing to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of them are on treatment, and 90% of them have suppressed viral load. The achievement of 90-90-90 is an ambitious goal that would control the HIV epidemic.
PEPFAR is honored to support the Ministry of Health and Child Care in launching ZIMPHIA. PEPFAR has invested $3 million for implementation of the survey and an additional $5 million to strengthen the health and laboratory systems to support ZIMPHIA. In the coming year, PEPFAR will invest a total of $103 million in Zimbabwe to work toward epidemic control of HIV. PEPFAR is committed to continuing our support towards the implementation of HIV and AIDS activities in Zimbabwe and in particular, this first HIV Impact Assessment.
We believe that ZIMPHIA is one of the ways to attain epidemic control in Zimbabwe and as we continue towards the goal of reaching an AIDS-free generation I can think of no better place to launch the first such survey than Zimbabwe. The exceptional capacity of Zimbabweans can be seen in the expertise of staff at the Ministry of Health and Child Care, survey partners, and data collection teams. Today we are joined by over 200 ZIMPHIA team members who will be collecting information in the field. Thank you. Your dedication is demonstrated in your commitment to this survey and your willingness to spend months away from your home. The U.S. Government is honored to support ZIMPHIA.