U.S. Refocusing HIV & AIDS Support to Zimbabwe

Robert Scott with Health Minister David Parirenyatwa at the official launch of a health survey
Robert Scott with Health Minister David Parirenyatwa at the official launch of a health survey

The United States, which provides over $95 million to HIV and AIDS funding to Zimbabwe through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is refocusing its support to areas and populations with the highest burden of disease, a senior Embassy official said on Monday.

“PEPFAR resources remain high at “$128.7 million including additional funding for DREAMS and Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision scale-up but are insufficient to meet the growing demand for treatment and other services,” said Robert Scott, deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy. “In line with UNAIDS “Fast Track Strategy,” allocation of resources will focus on achieving the greatest impact to reach epidemic control in a short space of time.”

Scott was speaking a Health Policy Dialogue session organized by the Southern African Political and Economic Series (SAPES). The meeting brought together representatives of government, the private sector; development partners and civic society organizations.

Dr. Jane Muita
Dr. Jane Muita

Scott said PEPFAR resources will be concentrated in 36 scale up districts where 541 sites requiring intensive support and will focus efforts on populations in which the numbers of new infections and of people living with HIV are highest.  He said efforts to sustain key care and treatment activities in 53 high volume sites across the entire country will continue.

Target populations, he said, were identified based on the UNAIDS hotspot mapping, Demographic Health Survey and program data. High risk and vulnerable populations include sex workers, adolescent girls and young women as well as individuals living in mining areas, growth points and areas with migrant workers, among others.

Since 2006, PEPFAR has provided over US$650 million to Zimbabwe.  As a direct result of this continuous support, by the end of 2014, 160,000 people were on antiretroviral therapy and receiving related HIV services and care.

The policy dialogue session was held to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders involved in health services delivery in Zimbabwe and covered a number of key policy issues including health financing and insurance, coordination and human resources retention.

Dr. Jane Muita (in picture), Deputy Country Representative at the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), said the new health strategy should focus on consolidating gains made in the past as well as focus on domestic funding.

“We are proposing that it is still critical to continue strengthening the health system including sustained foreign and local financing, supply chain management, human resources retention, community participation, coordination and governance as well as stronger monitoring and evaluation,” said Dr. Muita. She called for results based health financing arguing that this should be based on a strong national health strategy which is in the process of being developed.

Dr. Godfrey Sikipa, chief executive officer at Compre Health Services, said private-public partnerships are a viable option for Zimbabwe.

“Unfortunately it is coming at a time when there is some erosion of the manufacturing sector performance that will make it more difficult to rely on the private sector,” he noted. He hailed the Health Transition Fund supported by international partners. “It has clearly demonstrated the dramatic it can have in terms of funding the rural health centers,” said the former ministry of health permanent secretary.

The U.S. and various multilateral organizations have been complementing and supporting the efforts of the health ministry in the development and implementation of its health strategy.- ZimPAS © October 27, 2015