Govt appeals for $103m for HIV testing

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HARARE – Government has appealed to donors to help fund a $103 million HIV testing programme launched a week ago.


This comes as the fight against HIV/Aids is being jeopardised by a cut in social spending by President Robert Mugabe’s government, with health workers being laid off and programmes to prevent the spread of the deadly disease curtailed.


Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said the health system in Zimbabwe needs $1, 3 billion every year.


“And people were saying, ‘ah but our budget is $4 billion every year how can you take $1, 3 billion?’ But this is what we need, whether we reach there is another thing.


“That’s why people continue saying our health sector is not operating well because we are not being given that amount that’s needed,” he said.


Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated $281, 9 million to the Health ministry in the 2017 Budget, translating to 6,8 percent of the budget.


Zimbabwe’s public expenditure on health over the years has been below the Abuja commitment for African governments — 15 percent of annual budget — as well as the Dakar Commitment which requires at least nine percent of gross domestic product.


The testing strategy — expected to run from 2017 to 2020 — is part of the country’s efforts to achieving the 90-90-90 target of having 90 percent of people living with HIV to know their status, 90 percent of people living with HIV to be on treatment and 90 percent of living with HIV have their viral load suppressed.


It aims to get more than 10 million tested for HIV through various services such as self-testing and community-based testing services.


Currently, the national testing coverage, according to the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (Zimphia), stands at 74 percent.


Launching the strategy early this month, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs minister Eunice Sandi-Moyo said without funding the strategy would just remain a good document.


“If the resources to implement each and every activity outlined in here are not availed, then it remains just a good document,” she said then.


With about 1,3 million people infected with HIV, Zimbabwe has one of the highest cases in southern Africa, according to the World Health Organisation, but new infections have fallen.


US President Donald Trump’s government has said it will maintain, and even increase, HIV funding levels in Zimbabwe despite a change in administration.


“We are very heartened that our Congress just passed the budget within the last few days and our President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief funding is remaining constant. In fact it will likely grow next year,” US ambassador Harry Thomas Jr said.

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