Dr. Tapuwa Magure, the chief executive of Zimbabwe’s National Aids Council (NAC), has described the organisation as “joining hands with people living with HIV and AIDS…in finding solutions to challenges in the fight against the spread of the pandemic" following protests from activists last month.
By Robert Tapfumaneyi
Dr. Tapuwa Magure, the chief executive of Zimbabwe’s National Aids Council (NAC), has described the organisation as “joining hands with people living with HIV and AIDS… in finding solutions to challenges in the fight against the spread of the pandemic.”
The comments, which Dr. Magure made in Matebeleland South during a fact finding visit to health institutions there, come a month after HIV activists stormed NAC’s offices, accusing management of spending too much of the country’s Aids levy on administration instead of drugs.
Following the protests, NAC has agreed to work hand in hand with people living with HIV to monitor and help improve service provision in opportunistic infection (OI) clinics in the country, as outlined in the Meaningful Involvement of People Living With HIV (MIPA) approach.
Mr. Bernard Nyathi, president of the Zimbabwe HIV and AIDS Union (ZHAAU), welcome the move. He said: “This is the first time that the Ministry of Health has used an open door policy ever since I started treatment activism years back. I consider this is the first step in designing ART programmes that are more suitable for us.”
Nyathi also urged people living with HIV and Aids to actively to take part in activities that are more helpful to them in their everyday life.
A report produced for Magure’s by people living with HIV and Aids who went on the fact finding mission found that all hospitals in the province have serious resource constrains ranging from inadequate medical staff, obsolete equipment, lack of transport to ferry service providers for visits, inefficiency, insufficient knowledge on OI treatment in nurses and the absence of viral load machines in some institutions. High rates of treatment defaulting were due to inaccessibility of the treatment and lack of appreciation on the importance of sticking to medicine religiously for consumers.
Present during visit were 12 people from both government and advocacy groups who recommended that government unfreeze health posts and increase resource allocations to ensure effective decentralization of treatment.
Zhaau board member Golden Goni discouraged people from using the report to create alarm. He said it should be used in guiding constructive dialogue.
“I know in the past when people talked of advocacy, they were talking of demonstrations and confrontations but advocacy is more than that,” said Goni.
“As PLHIV [people living with HIV] we are the major stakeholders in the response, a task that has been bestowed on us by our colleagues. It is enormous and we should exercise it with caution and responsibility,” he added.
Delegates felt that government should increase its support and commitment in the health sector if the report’s recommendations are to yield results.
Like many others the health sector is suffering from underfunding with only $380,9 million having been allocated for the 2013 financial year.
However, Dr Magure defended the nation’s Aids levy as an effective way of raising money.
“Our Aids Levy policy and resource mobilization has been and is an envy of many African countries. We have been contributing more than 35 percent of the money needed in interventions while other countries are all dependent on the donor community,” he said.