New US Ambassador pledges support

arv_medicineHARARE - Five Zimbabwean HIV and AIDS activists received awards last week as the United States government pledged to scale up support to anti-retroviral treatment in the country.

The five recipients – filmmaker Hopewell Chinono, Batanai Support Group in Masvingo, football administrator Chris Sambo, pediatrician Rose Kambarami and Barclays Bank Zimbabwe Limited – were honoured at the 2009 Auxillia Chimusoro Awards ceremony held in Harare on Thursday. The five were recognized for their outstanding contribution in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in the fields of communications, community participation, leadership and corporate social responsibility respectively.

The awards ceremony – financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – was attended by members of various HIV/AIDS support groups, senior government officials, diplomats and Emmy Award winning actress and Population Services International (PSI) Ambassador, Debra Messing.

US partnership to continue

Congratulating the winners, US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles A. Ray, told delegates that his country would continue its strong partnership with Zimbabwe to contain HIV/AIDS. We are expecting an additional US$46 million (for HIV and AIDS support in Zimbabwe) in 2010. In Zimbabwe, in 2009, the US Government supported anti-retroviral therapy for 40,000 Zimbabweans in need of care and, in 2010, we will increase that number by nearly fifty per cent, said Ray. Ambassador Ray said over the next five years, the United States would partner with other nations – including Zimbabwe – to build the long-term sustainability of their national HIV/AIDS responses.

Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr. Henry Madzorera, had earlier noted that while HIV prevalence has been declining, the number of people accessing anti-retroviral therapy has been increasing. The Minister hailed the improved coordination under the Zimbabwe National HIV/AIDS strategy in combating HIV and AIDS. My ministry and our partners, including donor agencies and civil society organisations, are making concerted efforts to ensure Zimbabweans have access to HIV services as a fundamental human right, said Madzorera. Messing, who toured several USAID funded projects in Harare and surrounding areas, applauded the united approach exhibited by Zimbabweans and international partners in combating the spread of HIV.

In a region ravaged by HIV, Zimbabwe has made extensive strides to stem the spread of this disease, said Messing. Though I am deeply saddened to see the devastation the disease has caused, I am filled with hope when I see the incredible team of people, local leaders, NGOs, the donor community and the people of Zimbabwe who are joining together in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The awards are named after Auxillia Chimusoro, who was among the first persons in Zimbabwe to disclose her HIV positive status. Born in rural Gokomere, she rose to international prominence by virtue of her bravery, leadership, common sense and good humor in defense of human rights for HIV-infected people, particularly the right to medical care and medicine.

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Post published in: Analysis