President Emmerson Mnangagwa has decried the HIV burden on adolescent girls and women who contribute more than half of new HIV infections.
He was addressing delegates at the official opening of the 22nd bi-annual International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Harare yesterday.
Mnangagwa said there was no room to relax as Aids was not over.
“The 2022 report by the United Nations Aids clearly reflects that Aids continues to claim lives and is a call for continued action. Regrettably, new HIV infections continue to be prevalent among women, who accounted for 63% of all new infections, while new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, remain widespread in sub- Saharan Africa,” he said.
Mnangagwa said the pandemic remained one of the salient threats to sustainable socio-economic development.
He said the conference’s theme, Aids is Not Over, Address Inequalities, Accelerate Inclusion and Innovation, was a befitting reminder on the need to remain focused and avoid complacency.
“We must, thus, keep our eyes on the ball and consolidate the milestones we have achieved over the years,” Mnangagwa said.
He said conferences, meetings and workshops were not enough if they were not backed by deliberate and concrete action plans to promote and achieve HIV funding sustainability.
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“Here in Zimbabwe, the National Aids Trust Fund has contributed over 30% of all our treatment needs and financed various prevention and co-ordination interventions. We are available to share key lessons learnt, through this approach,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, UN resident co-ordinator Edward Kallon said while Zimbabwe had made commendable progress in the fight against the HIV epidemic and STIs, as in other countries, there are still numerous challenges to overcome in achieving the goal of ending Aids and STIs.
“These challenges include disparities in access to HIV services based on age, gender and geography. Adolescent girls and young women are disproportionately affected by new infections, while children and key populations have limited access to services. The national-scale implementation of programmes targeting these groups is yet to be achieved.”
“As we deliberate on ICASA, comprehensive and reliable funding, as well as capacity-building support, are critical to delivering inclusive and quality services. Furthermore, creating an enabling environment that facilitates community involvement in decision-making and protects the human rights of all, especially marginalised and key populations, is of paramount importance,” he said.
Kallon said HIV/Aids remained a threat to socioeconomic progress and had the potential to destabilise society and hinder human development.
“Addressing the underlying factors contributing to the spread of HIV, such as gender inequality and practices that perpetuate sexual and gender-based violence, is crucial,” he said.
Over 4 000 delegates are in the country for the conference which ends this weekend.
Additionally, about 2 000 others are following proceedings online from over 100 countries.
The conference is the second to be hosted by Zimbabwe within a decade, the first conference was held in 2015 at the same venue.