Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
ZIMBABWE is among five countries in the world which have halved Aids-related deaths in the past three decades and was also recently removed from the list of 30 TB highly burdened countries worldwide.
The country has also managed to fight malaria and tuberculosis through its programming as shown by a decrease in new cases and deaths.
Global Fund Zimbabwe Advocates representative Mr Itai Rusike said the country has achieved a lot in addressing deaths caused by the three diseases which are still prevalent in Zimbabwe.
“The Global Fund to Fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria (GFATM) has been supporting public health programming for the past two decades and an amount of US$2,2 billion has been invested in the country and to date a total $1,8 billion has been disbursed,” said Mr Rusike.
“Over the past eight years deaths due to Aids decreased from 54 000 to 22 000 annually owing to improvements in ART coverage and other best practices. This has placed Zimbabwe among five countries globally that have halved deaths due to Aids.”
He said the significant gains recorded over the past 20 years were, however, at serious risk of reversal due to the Covid-19 imposed challenges.
“Therefore, going forward there is a need for Covid-19 proofing programming for the three diseases components as well as Health and Community Systems Strengthening.
The Global Fund has already shown commitment by supporting the C19RM grant for Zimbabwe which is estimated at around US$75 million.
Mr Rusike said the country also recorded a decline in malaria incidence from 34 cases to 19 cases per 1 000.
“In 2018 alone the country distributed a total of 844 000 mosquito nets against a planned estimate of 595 000 indicating an oversubscription of the target by 34 percent. In 2018, there were 28 districts that were targeted for malaria elimination from as little as seven districts in 2008,” he said.
“The country has managed to maintain average annual malaria deaths of between 200 and 406 between 2012 and 2017. This is a remarkable achievement when considering that the country reported an estimated 1, 2 million malaria cases in 2017 alone.”
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health Dr Ruth Labode said Zmbabwe had done well to control HIV.
“We have already achieved the control of HIV as we reached the goal long before the set deadline of 2030. Our challenge is going to be on the sexual reproductive health, not because we need money. Our legal framework stops a woman from getting contraceptives because of age so she will get pregnant at a very young age and die,” said Dr Labode.
Local HIV activist Mr Dumisani Nkomo said despite the gains made in Zimbabwe, a number of people were defaulting their medication due to Covid-19 lockdown.
He said others were also struggling to access recommended diets and as such it is difficult for them to achieve viral suppression.
“On paper it is correct that indeed we have made great strides in reducing Aids-related deaths and new infections. Our main worry however, is that everyone is focusing on Covid-19 now and many have defaulted their HIV medication which may be a problem in the long run,” said Mr Nkomo.
He said many people were losing focus on their treatment because everyone was talking about Covid-19. “We need someone to be monitoring this so that one day we do not wake up with a serious problem of defaulters because of the assumption that everyone is adhering to Art treatment during lockdown,” said Mr Nkomo.