US Govt strengthens efforts to combat HIV in Zimbabwe

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By Clayton Masekesa

MUTARE – The United States government has amplified its efforts to combat HIV in Zimbabwe by launching two new programmes worth US$54 million.

The two programs launched in corporation with Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) Zimbabwe and its partners are the DREAMS – Support, Maintain, Advocate, Reduce Risk and Transform (SMART) programme alternatively known as the DREAMS SMART Girls.

The programme is a partnership to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in Zimbabwean.

The second programme is the Sustaining, Prevention, and Increasing Access to Care and Empowerment (SPACE) for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (SPACE for OVC).

This programme will work in high HIV-burdened districts to help communities and local institutions to provide a comprehensive set of services to improve the health, nutrition, and psycho-social well-being of HIV-affected and infected children.

The programme will ensure that children can access HIV prevention, care, and treatment services, as well as prevention of and response to gender-based violence.

The two programmes that will be implemented in Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces for the next five years are funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPEFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Speaking during the official launch of the two programmes at a local hotel in Mutare on Monday, the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Elaine French, said: “It is a true honour to be with you today to celebrate the launch of two new programs totaling more than US$54 million that are part of the US government’s ongoing efforts to combat HIV in Zimbabwe,” said French.

“The United States is grateful to be working with FACT Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Health and Child Care to address these issues. The activities we are highlighting today, and the work we all continue to do, all play a critical role in fighting the HIV epidemic in Zimbabwe,” she said.

‘It is because of the dedication and hard work of people like you that we celebrate today. Together, our commitment and interventions will continue to have an immeasurable impact on the lives of many Zimbabweans,” French said.

Minister of State for Manicaland and Devolution, Nokhutula Matsikenyere applauded the Zimbabwe government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care for spearheading the multicultural response to HIV IN Manicaland province.

In her speech read of her behalf by the Deputy Director (Local Governance), Past-Tense Tarondwa, in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) Matsikenyere said:

“As we are witnessing today, the launch of these two programs bears testimony to the close corporation between the Government of Zimbabwe and bi-lateral partners to ensure comprehensive support to orphans, vulnerable children, adolescent girls, young women and their families through tightly woven interventions that leave no one behind,” Matsikenyere said.

Speaking at the same occasion the FACT Zimbabwe Country Director, Getrude Shumba said: “Today we celebrate yet another milestone as we launch the DREAMS SMART Girls and the SPACE for OVC programmes that are complementing the Government of Zimbabwe’s efforts in fight HIV in the country.”

“As FACT Zimbabwe, I would like to applaud our partners and their teams of dedicated staff for working tirelessly to reach the vulnerable children with services,” Shumba added.

Shumba said FACT Zimbabwe has partnered with Population Solutions for Health, Bantwana Zimbabwe,   ZAPP Trust, Rujeko Home Based Care Programme, Christofell-Blindenmission, Christian Blind Mission, and PACT to meet the objectives of these two critical programs.

Overall, the two programmes will operate in Manicaland’s four districts that include Mutare, Makoni, Buhera, and Chipinge.

In Masvingo, the programme will be implemented in five districts namely Gutu, Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Chivi, and Masvingo.