By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | iZiviso Global Editor At Large
HARARE, Zimbabwe – UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, said that no-one believed that Zimbabwe could succeed in responding to the AIDS epidemic at the inaugural GlobalPOWER Africa Women Network conference held recently in Harare, Zimbabwe.
According to UNAIDS, Zimbabwe has achieved one of the sharpest declines in HIV prevalence in Southern Africa, from 27% in 1997 to just over 14% in 2010. With 10 times fewer resources for AIDS per capita than other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe has expanded coverage of antiretroviral treatment among adults, from 15% in 2007 to 80% in 2010. At the end of 2011, nearly half a million people in the country were receiving lifesaving HIV treatment and care.
“No-one was beliving that Zimbabwe could be a success story with all the difficulties the country was facing but Zimbabwe managed to demonstarte that they can reduce by 52 percent the adult infection rate during the last ten years. Zimbabwe managed to increase the number of people in need of treatment by 50 percent during only the last two years which is important for us to underline,” Sidibe said
He added that Zimbabwe was also a success story because it introduced innovative ways to mobilize internal resources. Zimbabwe’s AIDS Levy, a tax on income to increase domestic resources for the national HIV programme has enabled the country to diversify its domestic funding for its AIDS response, raising an estimated US$ 26 million in 2011. This year the levy is expected to raise US$ 30 million.
However, the majority of people on antiretroviral drugs continue to be supported by the donor community: 76 percent of the 347 172 people on treatment are supported by donor funding.
“In general, any data, you put out is questioned. When we mentioned in our report for the first time that Zimbabwe was making progress, they were reducing the number of new infections and increasing the number of people on treatment, death was going down, people questioned us how that could happen. Many aspects about the country pointded otherwise,” he said.
He said that question surrounding the fact that the country was undergoing serious economic problems made people question the results.
“We asked the one of the best institutes in the world, Imperial College, to come and validate our data. They did all the epidieological analysis and caem up with the validation of the dats. Any place where HIV has success response record, its about leadership at all levels. Secondly, what happeend in Zimbabwe is change in behaviour.
He said that the AIDS levy had played a key part in the Zimbabwean AIDS response, and UNAIDS used it as best practice in raising locals resources for the AIDS response.
“Today, its only 13 percent of the formal sector paying for the levy. We could really look at the informal sector, it will even bring more resources. Zimbabwe’ efforts during the last two years to increase treatment in the past two years is one of the best practices,” he said.
“The Zimbabwe AIDS Levy is an excellent example that demonstrates to other African countries how to generate domestic resources to maintain and own their national AIDS responses. I encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to explore how this initiative could be expanded to tap into the informal sector to boost the resources of the trust fund.”