The National Aids Council (NAC) is carrying out Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Aids (MIPA) meetings with representatives from across the country. The meetings are a platform to hear and offer solutions to issues affecting people living with HIV in Zimbabwe. Key among the discussions are the effects of Covid-19 on access to treatment of HIV.
NAC CEO Bernard Madzima, in remarks read on his behalf by NAC operations director Raymond Yekeye at one of the meetings held in Macheke, bemoaned the loss of lives that had occurred since the onset of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe. He also noted that although there were difficulties encountered in accessing HIV medicines due to travel restrictions, particularly in the first lockdown, there was a marked improvement in disbursement of medicines this year.
“What is also encouraging is that the 2021 lockdown was handled better than the first probably due to the fact that we now have the experience to handle lockdowns. There were few reported cases of people living with HIV failing to access medication, or being turned away at roadblocks as was the case during the first lockdown,” he said.
Madzima urged people living with HIV to remain united so that they speak with one voice.
One of the attendees of the meetings, Meza Masese, who is the provincial MIPA forum secretary for Mashonaland East, indicated that the MIPA meetings had become more informative and progressive.
“I can say that this year provincial reports were more informative and this will help in programming for us as people living with HIV. Discussions were richer and focus-driven as well”, she said.
Masese commended NAC for ensuring that people living with HIV got multi-month supplies of their medicines during the lockdown periods and facilitated that people got medicines from their nearest health centre and not necessarily from their usual collection points as some of them were caught by the lockdown while they were in foreign places.
The origins of MIPA date back to 1983, when a group of positive activists, who had been excluded from a medical conference taking place in Denver, US, announced a set of principles that outlined the standards for human rights and empowerment of PLHIV. These became known as the “Denver Principles” and included;
- A refusal to be viewed as victims, blamed for the virus or for generalisations to be made about their lifestyles.
- A request for support from all people.
- A plea against stigma and discrimination.
- A right to a full and satisfying sexual and emotional life.
- Provision of quality and informed medical treatment and social service.
- Privacy and confidentiality of medical records.
- The right to live and die in dignity.
- A call to all positive people to be
— Involved at all levels of decision- making;
— Included in all Aids forums; and
— Responsible for their own sexual health, and that of their partners, and to inform potential sexual partners of their health status.
Subsequently, in 1994, at the Paris Aids Conference, the acronym GIPA (greater involvement of PLHIV) was coined to refer to the broad principles for the involvement of PLHIV in HIV and Aids programmes. The Paris Declaration was signed by 42 countries, including Zimbabwe.
MIPA meetings are held annually in Zimbabwe with representatives coming from the country’s 10 provinces.