Submitted by: Adolf Mavheneke, SAfAIDS (edited slightly from the original for clarity)
During the 2014 Annual Partnership Forum, Zimbabwe was identified as the focus country for the roll-out of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) supported HIV, TB and Human Rights Capacity Strengthening and Advocacy Country Programme in 2014. SAfAIDS and the Zimbabwe Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) were selected to co-host the Country Programme.
In this article, Adolf Mavheneke, the Country Programme Coordinator hosted by SAfAIDS reflects on their recent work to strengthen HIV, TB and human rights advocacy in Zimbabwe.
From February to April 2015, the Country Programme hosted provincial stakeholder sensitisation meetings and HIV, TB, Human Rights and Advocacy trainings targeted at both Community Health Advocates (CHAs) and provincial stakeholders.
The sensitisation meetings equipped the stakeholders with knowledge about the programme and also sought to solicit stakeholders’ buy-in in rolling out the country programme. During the meetings, one of the stakeholders in attendance noted that the programme is very relevant, and advised that focus should be concentrated on ‘issues’ and ‘systems’ and not on individuals.
Some of the issues highlighted during the provincial stakeholder sensitisation meetings included:
- Low uptake of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) among children
- Increase in new infections across all the provinces with the situation worsening in Masvingo province when colleges are in session
- Increase in new infections and high transactional sexual activities along hotspots such as highways, mining and business centres
- Treatment fatigue among People Living with HIV (PLHIV)
- Stigma and discrimination of sex workers and LGBTI people at public health facilities;
- Inadequate cancer screening machines at public health facilities;
- Corruption in the public health delivery system;
The inadequate funding to the health sector by the government and fragmentation of the health sector was also raised as well as children living and working on the streets including their families who are often left out in mainstream HIV programming. It was also noted that there is a lack of physical space to cater for the increased demand for services in health centers.
In order to address some of the issues noted above, Community Health Advocates went through an advanced training on HIV and TB treatment literacy, community mobilisation, human rights and using the media as an effective tool for advocacy. This has strengthened their knowledge and preparedness to spearhead and tackle some of the health advocacy issues outlined above.
Follow up Provincial trainings targeted at government officials and other AIDS Service organisations in Zimbabwe were held and managed to stir focus around similar thematic areas. The trainings were spearheaded by the Community Health Advocates and provided a platform for the development and strengthening of alliances and networks on the human rights response to HIV and TB in Zimbabwe.