First lady Auxillia Mnangagwa said she would do everything possible and committed herself to end paediatric HIV and Aids by 2030.
She made these remarks recently while launching the Free to Shine Campaign (Ending HIV and Aids in Children by 2030) in Harare.
The event was organised by the National Aids Council (NAC).
“The launch of this campaign should spur us all to action as our government is committed to eliminating new HIV infections among children keeping their mothers healthy,” she said.
“I am indeed committed to this cause and will work tirelessly to support the Ministry of Health and Child Care in the pursuit of an HIV-free generation and access to treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV to keep them Aids-free.”
At least 1,4 million children are living with HIV in Africa south of the Sahara and this is over 50% of all children living with the virus globally. Every year, 150 000 children are newly infected with HIV globally.
“This is social injustice against children as new HIV infections among children are entirely preventable through provision of antiretroviral treatment to HIV pregnant and lactating women and safe delivery and infant feeding practices,” she said.
The first lady said the idea for the Free to Shine Campaign was mooted at the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV and Aids (OAFLA) during the African Union gathering early this year.
“It was on January 29, 2018 that African first ladies gathered in Addis Ababa to champion Free to Shine, a campaign that was spearheaded by the Organisation of African First Ladies and the African Union gathering to end childhood Aids in Africa by 2030 and keep mothers healthy,” she said.
Mnangagwa said it was high time that Zimbabwe mobilised resources for the HIV response.
“It is important that we address the issue of increasing domestic resources to fight HIV in Zimbabwe and particularly, so for women and children,” she said.
The first lady said she was pleased that the Ministry of Health and Child Care has heeded her call to scrap off user fees for women seeking antenatal care and delivery services.
“The health of women is important as they are the mothers of the nation, all of us were born by a woman. For this reason, I continue to champion the cause for women, advocating for their sexual and reproductive health needs to be met and supporting for them to plan their families and access family planning services as needed,” she said.
Lately, the first lady has been championing activities increase awareness of cervical and breast cancer.
Speaking at the same gathering, NAC board chairperson Evaristo Marowa said their organisation was excited to be part of the Free to Shine campaign, adding that the initiative was a major step in the country’s efforts to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV.
“The agenda to end Aids by 2030 will be unachievable if children continue to be born with HIV, while mothers die from Aids-related illnesses in Zimbabwe and the entire continent,” Marowa said.
“This initiative led by our first lady is, therefore, very welcome as it has come soon after the birth of the Second Zimbabwe Republic, which is a statement of commitment by the government to eliminate mother to child transmission and achieve virtual elimination.
“As the national coordinator of the response to HIV, NAC shall continue to support the initiatives of ending Aids among children and keeping the mothers alive in addition to the general community.”
Marowa said the national Aids board beginning in 2015 increased budgetary allocation for HIV prevention to at least $5 million per annum to revitalise the prevention agenda.
“In view of the fact that issues of maternal health and HIV among women are strongly related to gender violence, NAC funds and supports various interventions to address gender-based violence, child abuse and girl child empowerment.
This includes advocacy to chiefs and policy makers, community engagement and economic empowerment of women,” he said.
“As part of these programmes, we are also responsible for the coordination element of the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS Free, Mentored and Safe (Dreams), which focuses on ensuring that adolescent girls and young women access HIV prevention and are economically empowered.
“Through Global Fund and Aids Levy funding, we have also rolled out a modified Dreams model, which we are already implementing across the country with a focus on promotion of gender transformative approaches, economic empowerment and community awareness among others. Through our budgetary allocation to Beam, we also support initiatives to keep the children in school as a way of preventing HIV and empowerment.”
The NAC chairperson said the organisation strongly supports national anti-cancer programmes, including the initiatives by the first lady.
“As you may be aware, 60% of all cancer cases are associated with HIV, which calls for a coordinated integrated response. You may be aware that NAC has for three years now hosted the HIV and Cancer Prevention Revitalisation Golf Tournament as a way to raise awareness and resources for that integrated response,” he said.
United Nations resident coordinator in Zimbabwe Bishow Parajuli said the UN would continue supporting the OAFLA against HIV and Aids initiative, including the domestication of the African Union’s campaign to prioritise children, adolescents and mothers in the fight against HIV and Aids initiative in Zimbabwe.