Investing into the future- Ending AIDS through eliminating paediatric HIV in Zimbabwe
HARARE, 7 June 2012 (DevAge) - Anoziva and Anotida Chikonyora are one-year old identical twins, born to a discordant couple in Centenary, about 120 kilometres north of the capital of Harare. Smiling in the comforting hands of their parents and protected from the scotching sun of the dry communal area, the twins have both tested negative for HIV – thanks to the Government supported elimination of paediatric HIV programme. The future of the twins also seems to be set as their parents are already have started a regular savings and seeking to invest in the future of their children by rearing small livestock at their farming plot.
“We are grateful for the support that our community is receiving to prevent mother-to-child transmission, I also believe people should not be made donor dependent, they should be empowered to establish their own projects,” said Innocent Chikonyora the father of the twins.
Elizabeth Tafira a friend of the Chikonyora family has a similar story. Their friendship dates back to the early 1990s when she was diagnosed with HIV and joined a support group for people living with HIV. According to Tafira much has changed since those days.
She said ‘In the 1990s when I discovered my status there was little hope, treatment was very inaccessible, there was a lot of stigma and discrimination and delivering a baby was not an option for me.” She reckons lack of information as well as professional and community support stops women living with HIV from accessing services. “I was a little hesitant in the past to consider the options that became available for delivering babies without transmitting HIV,” confessed Elizabeth.
Elizabethrecently had a baby girl, Anashe, and is anxiously waiting for the results of the HIV test for her child. She is confident that the test will be negative and after the results she intends to visit the nearby health institution to speak to the some of medical staff who advised her against having a baby. ‘’I want to show them that an HIV positive women can indeed have HIV negative babies.”
The government through the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW) and the National AIDS Council (NAC) is working with various partners at the community level to provide a broad range of HIV services.
The Zimbabwe National AIDS Strategic Plan II (2011-2015) prioritises the prevention of mother- to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and targets to reduce the rate from 14% in 2010 to 7% in 2013 and less than 5% by 2015.
Chief Chiveso ofMashonalandCentralProvinceinZimbabwesays despite the encouraging results, government authorities, communities and development partners should accelerate their efforts to reach more mothers with quality services.
“My people are no longer afraid of being tested. What we do not yet have are adequate services for HIV testing and counselling, CD4 count, TB screening and testing,” highlighted Chief Chiveso.
Information, education and behaviour change communication are also key elements of this effort, stressed the chief “Home deliveries remain a challenge in addressing new infections in children.”