Over half a million of Zimbabweans are set to benefit from two projects launched by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), meant to provide critical HIV health care services.
The two projects worth a combined US$78 million was made possible through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
USAID’s Zimbabwe Mission Director, Art Brown, said the projects were aimed at making sure people living with HIV could start treatment early, adhere to treatment, reach viral load suppression, and live longer, healthier lives.
With the Organisation for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID), USAID is to provide care and treatment services for more than half a million people living with HIV, at 700 health facilities in 24 districts, for the next five years.
OPHID will expand client-centred services in facilities and communities and train more than 12 000 healthcare workers on innovative models to increase testing, ART initiation and adherence and viral load testing.
The US Embassy noted USAID and OPHID will support the development of national level policy, strategy, and healthcare guidelines, which the Ministry of Health and Child Care will cascade to the whole country.
Through a one-year programme, USAID and the Centre for Sexual Health, HIV and AIDS Research (CeSHHAR) would assist in closing the remaining gaps in HIV prevention and care for sex workers in the five hotspot districts of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, and Masvingo including three border posts with Mozambique, Botswana, and Zambia.
Working directly with female sex workers, USAID will reduce new HIV infections through increasing the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms, and other emerging prevention technologies.
“PEPFAR’s efforts to fight HIV will ultimately help Zimbabwe meet critical AIDS treatment targets. Our support breaks barriers and closes remaining gaps in sustaining and accelerating HIV prevention and care,” said the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols.
The US Embassy noted that since PEPFAR’s inception in Zimbabwe in 2006, American investments of more than US$1.2 billion have led to an 80 percent decline in the annual number of HIV-related deaths, with more than 1.15 million Zimbabweans currently on lifesaving antiretroviral medicines (ARVs).
Since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the American people, through USAID, have contributed over US$3.5 billion in assistance to Zimbabwe.
Current projects include initiatives to increase food security, support economic resilience, improve health systems and services, and promote a more democratic system of governance.