10th Zimbabwe Uniformed Forces Health Services conference adresses HIV/Aids and substance abuse

Leonard Ncube, [email protected] 

THE 10th edition of the Zimbabwe Uniformed Forces Health Services conference has started in Victoria Falls amid calls for concerted efforts to address socio-economic challenges caused by drug and substance abuse.

About 250 delegates are attending this year’s conference and these are from the uniformed forces namely Zimbabwe Defence Forces, ZRP, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Ministry of Health and Child Care, National Aids Council, partners and stakeholders from the health-related corporate sector, National Blood Services Zimbabwe, city health departments of Harare, Bulawayo and  Victoria Falls, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and University of Zimbabwe College of Health Science.

Also present are military health services from Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania Defence Forces.

The three-day conference which will end on Wednesday is running under the theme: “HIV/Aids and substance abuse. A threat to national security. ”

Brig Gen Mutetse among delegates

Giving welcome remarks, the director of army health service in the ZDF Brigadier General Godfrey Ndumiyawo Mutetse said drug and substance abuse is a cross-cutting challenge.

“This year’s theme was informed by the fact that HIV/Aids, drug and substance abuse have increasingly become a menace to the global health security. Zimbabwe too is experiencing a challenge with drug and substance abuse and this challenge is a cross-cutting issue affecting youthful populations in their diversity,” he said.

The Zimbabwe National HIV and Aids Strategic Plan (2021-2025) identifies people who use drugs as a Key population within the HIV response.

However, there is a lack of data to determine the magnitude and burden of disease and vulnerabilities to HIV and TB among people who abuse drugs and substances, Brig Gen Mutetse said.

He said despite the growing problem of drug and substance abuse, Zimbabwe’s laws and regulations are strongly based on zero tolerance towards drugs.

Defence Forces from the continent at the Uniformed Forces Health Services conference in Victoria Falls

These laws are supported by the Zimbabwe National Drug Masterplan (2020-2025) which focuses on reducing the supply and demand of drugs and lists harm reduction measures.

Brig Gen Mutetse said the uniformed forces health services conference was conceptualised more than a decade ago in view of the alarming rise in morbidity and mortality in HIV/Aids in the country and among uniformed forces and has grown in terms of number of delegates attending.

This is a platform for sharing experiences and knowledge by healthcare workers and partners.

“The conference of this magnitude provides a platform for research scientists, practitioners, industry specialists and policymakers to share experiences. It is my hope that this conference will engage in discussions that will lead to decision points that will help craft policy directions in order to combat drug and substance abuse in the uniformed forces,” said Brig Gen Mutetse.

Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Phillip Valerio Sibanda is expected to officially open the conference.

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