Drought exposes HIV patients to risk

HARARE - The United Nations has warned that about 196 000 people living with HIV in the impoverished Zimbabwe’s rural areas are at risk due to the ravaging drought and the deteriorating economic situation which has affected their treatment regime.

According to statistics, Zimbabwe has 1,4 million living with HIV with adult HIV prevalence pegged at 14, 7 percent.

“It is estimated that 196 000 people, including children, are living with HIV in the 15 districts worst affected by drought,” the report said.

“The deteriorating economic situation is further compounding vulnerabilities of the food and nutrition insecure population as negative impacts continue to affect vulnerable women and children in Zimbabwe, with the situation expected to worsen in the coming months,” the UN said in a report titled Zimbabwe: Humanitarian Response Plan (April 2016 — March 2017) which was released last week.

“Approximately 200 children are estimated to have separated from their primary caregiver due to drought-induced internal migration,” the report added.

Zimbabwe — with one of the highest HIV prevalences in the world at 15 percent — is facing one of its worst droughts in twenty years as a result of El Nino-induced adverse weather conditions, with more than 5,5 million people in need of food aid.

Health experts say there is need for the government to seek outside assistance to ensure that those affected by HIV have adequate food and medical attention.

Cognisant of the dire situation faced by people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund early this month strengthened their partnership with additional funding of $143 million to help scale up the fight against the scourge in the country.

The HIV grant aims to increase access to treatment, with a particular focus on the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, expanding testing and counselling services, and scale up of prevention for adolescents and in and out of school youth.

“This timely new funding will sustain and strengthen existing HIV prevention and treatment services in Zimbabwe,” said Bishow Parajuli, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Zimbabwe.

“Significant advances have been made in recent years but we must not be complacent. Services must continue if we are to further reduce the rate of new HIV infections while also increasing the number of people initiated on to HIV treatment,” Parajuli said.

Zimbabwe has made great strides in the fight against Aids, with the support of UNDP, the Global Fund and other development partners. The existing HIV grant supports 880 000 people in Zimbabwe to access life-saving treatment.

Between 2014 and 2015, retention of patients on HIV treatment has increased from 87 percent to approximately 90 percent, while the proportion of HIV-positive infants born to HIV-positive mothers has declined from 18 percent to 4 percent in the same period, corresponding to 14 000 new HIV infections of children being averted.

Experts say the grant will be key to reducing the impact of the HIV epidemic and ensuring healthy lives for all, contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3 on ensuring health and well-being for all.

The latest UN report comes at a time the country is going through one of its worst political and economic crises since 2008.

Comments (1)

How many kids could Bona's trip to give birth have fed?

Dakarai - 26 September 2016

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