Local government must be involved in Zambia’s HIV response, specialist warns

A huge amount more would have been achieved in the mitigation of Zambia’s HIV epidemic had local government been involved at the start of the country’s response, an AIDS research specialist has said.

A huge amount more would have been achieved in the mitigation of Zambia’s HIV epidemic had local government been involved at the start of the country’s response, an AIDS research specialist has said.

Harold Witola, a National AIDS Council (NAC) research specialist, described local authorities as being “at the helm of mitigating HIV and AIDS” but said they have been neglected at planning and implementation levels. He said the involvement of local authorities has been limited to members of some group supporting multi-sectoral responses as opposed to being involved in the response itself.

“It is that ironic that, over 25 years of travelling with HIV, we have now stopped to look back at where the local authorities are. We could have achieved three to four times more had the local authorities been involved in HIV and AIDS issues unlike just waiting to receive,” Witola said.

“Now the local authorities will start taking the lead, after all it is in line with the PF manifesto of decentralisation and devolution; the action should star at the bottom and receive support.”

However, Witola advised councils to look inwards for local resources instead of waiting for NAC to provide the resources.

“Council are sitting on local sustainable resources which should be utilised,” he said.

Witola made the comments at a trainers of trainers workshop for local government on HIV and AIDS today (19 November). Also present was country director of An Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV and AIDS (AMICAALL), Maurice Mbolela who said HIV has had a debilitating effect at government level especially in the areas of public service delivery.

He added that the concept of involving local authorities in HIV and AIDS mitigation has received international support.

“We have a chapter of AMICAALL in Zambia, which has been the driving force in the development of local solutions to meet the challenges of AIDS at local level. UNDP has in the past seven years rendered substantial assistance to the Zambian chapter of AMICAALL as a decentralised response to the AIDS struggle,” Mbolela said.

“With the UN joint team, NAC and AMICAALL, strategies have been developed to enhance a decentralised response, governance and management of the epidemic especially in urban areas where the prevalence is higher and [more] complex compared to rural areas.”

 

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