WHERE to now that the Durban 2016 Aids conference has come and gone? In 2018, activists, scientists and stakeholders in the HIV field will be going to Netherlands and keeping stock and a scorecard of the pandemic.Countries were represented and the Zimbabwean delegation was led by the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa.
Zimbabwe is calling for prevention to be added as a fourth pillar to the three 90s.
The three 90s say that 90 percent of a population have to know their HIV status. The second is that of the people testing HIV positive, 90 percent are commenced on anti- retroviral treatment. Of people on treatment, 90 percent have to have a suppressed viral load. A suppressed viral load is the golden measure that treatment is working well.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains a challenge for the country and people living with HIV are at risk of developing active TB due to their suppressed immune system.
Zimbabwe is ranked among the 80 high-burdened countries with TB.
The country held a TB caucus which preceded the Africa TB caucus which was held during the 21st International Aids Conference in Durban, South Africa.
Running under the theme: “Uniting leadership to end TB”, the caucus is spearheaded by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and lung Diseases (The Union) under its Challenge TB programme on behalf of the parent ministry of health in Zimbabwe.
Dr Ruth Labode who heads the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health was elected joint chairperson for the African chapter.
The TB caucus seeks to lobby for more space towards TB programming as well as increase awareness in communities by 2020.
TB is a serious public health problem locally and has a high morbidity and mortality rate.
The TB caucus was described by the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Parirenyatwa as a formal engagement of lawmakers and his ministry. This should see increased political commitment in the fight against TB.
“Political commitment is most effectively measured through the amount of funding made available to the health sector,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
TB programmes are mainly funded by the Global Fund and USAID respectively. The birth of the TB caucus, the minister hoped will be a turning point where the legislators will now take responsibility to mobilise local resources to fight TB.
The Abuja Declaration stresses that countries put aside 15 percent of the national budget towards health sector. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration.
Parliamentarians are therefore called to play their oversight role to hold Government accountable by making sure that adequate resources are given to the health sector.
Dr Labode said apart from lobbying for more funding, lawmakers would use the caucus to raise awareness on the dangers of TB, drug resistance, and TB and HIV co-infection.
“One thing I know for sure is that the caucus will create awareness and get the mining companies to support their employees affected by extending sick leave days on pay,” said Dr Labode.
“We have joined the African Parliamentarians to advocate increased funding for TB prevention and treatment from international donors,” added Dr Labode.
The Union Zimbabwe director, Dr Christopher Zishiri, said this could be effective in ending TB as the country heavily depended on donor funding to fight TB.
“In order for the country to move towards the ending of TB, there is need to increase domestic funding and invest more in disease prevention and treatment. Through the TB caucus we shall continue to lobby policy makers to advocate for an increase in Government allocation for the TB programme,” said Dr Zishiri.
“More so, the caucus’ role is to engage civil society and all stakeholders involved in the fight against TB. This will result in many players working towards ending TB in Zimbabwe,” he added.
“There is a lot of stigma attached to TB and this is a hindrance to accessing treatment and care. Stigma has caused a lot of treatment defaulting and loss to follow up of patients. Some patients just disappear because they do not want to be known to be taking medication for TB,” said Dr Zishiri.
Zimbabwe is heavily burdened with TB and HIV and is also in the throes of fighting drug resistant TB. The lawmakers have to lobby for funding from home and from the international community as well as raise awareness on the prevention and spread of tuberculosis.