The Chief Executive Officer of the National AIDS Council (NAC), Dr. Bernard Madzima has shown a clear indication that he is committed to steering the organisation in the right direction in the quest of ending HIV.
Dr. Madzima started work in April and came on board at the onset of COVID-19 and when NAC had gone for more than a year without a substantive CEO.
“It was not an easy time to stir the organisation in the right direction given that I started work at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Nonetheless, a new NAC board came into place in May. Thus, NAC has now fulfilled the corporate governance requirements with a new board and CEO in place,” Dr. Madzima said.
The CEO was quick to look at the implementation of the strategic framework for NAC. The institution has incorporated COVID-19 issues by mainstreaming them in all programming.
In the same manner, NAC was set up to respond to the HIV pandemic two decades ago.
“We felt we had a comparative advantage in terms of responding to COVID-19. As NAC, we are implementing what is in the 2019-2023 Zimbabwe National AIDS Strategic Plan. The plan is guided by the UNAIDS targets of ending HIV by 2030, attaining zero HIV infection, zero AIDS deaths, and zero stigma.
“We are looking at all programmes from prevention, treatment, care and support as well as scaling them up. We have some groups of people who have been left behind. These groups include adolescent and young girls, commercial sex workers, transgender, prison inmates, and artisanal miners,” Dr. Madzima said.
The former director of family health in the ministry of health said it is such key populations that NAC is targeting with specific programmes they are calling ‘models’.
These include the Sista2Sista programmes, Brotha2Brotha programmes, gender-based violence programmes, DREAMS programmes, the peer-led programmes, keeping girls in school programmes, and the sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programmes for young girls.
“If we do these programmes effectively, we should be able to reach the last mile of ending HIV by 2030.
However, Dr. Madzima said NAC faces a plethora of challenges. The institution buys HIV drugs. These drugs require foreign currency yet the AIDS levy is in local currency.
The laboratory equipment reagents also require foreign currency but since the introduction of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Foreign Currency Auction System, NAC has been accessing some foreign currency allocations.
The hyperinflationary environment has also created a challenge in terms of procuring commodities for HIV programmes.
Dr. Madzima said going forward, NAC wants to support community-based organisations dealing with people living with HIV who need financial and technical support to carry out programmes in the community.
“We are mainstreaming COVID-19 in our day-to-day activities. We are moblilisinfg financial resources to make the programmes sustainable using domestic resources,” Dr. Madzima added.
He paid tribute to NAC partners like the UNAIDS, PEPFAR, the Global Fund, PSI, and Plan International, among others for supporting the institution in its various programmes.