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As the world witnesses Zimbabwe's declining HIV & AIDS rate
International Video Fair (IVF)
Extracted from IVF Newsletter: Issue No 9 (Sept - Dec 2006)
November 01, 2006

"Just graze at home" is a campaign that won Uganda the fight against the AIDS pandemic. This was a campaign to promote faithfulness and improve couple communication. Zimbabwe would like to model its own campaign in almost the same way as the country looks at ways to further reduce its HIV & AIDS prevalence rate.

The 2005 AIDS epidemic update report, released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV & AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO), claims that there is evidence for the first time strategies based upon Abstinence, Be faithful and Use Condoms (ABC) were helping to bring down HIV prevalence in some countries, and Zimbabwe was one of the countries mentioned.

Zimbabwe was cited as the first nation in Southern Africa to record a significant decline with the country’s adult HIV & AIDS prevalence rate dropping from 24,6% in 2003 to 20,1% in 2005.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most affected globally. "We are encouraged by the gains that have been made in some countries and by the fact that sustained HIV prevention programmes have played a key part in bringing down infections. But the reality is that the AIDS epidemic continues to outstrip global and national efforts to contain it," said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot." It is clear that a rapid increase in the scale and scope of HIV prevention programmes is urgently needed. We must move from small projects with short-term horizons to long-term, comprehensive strategies," he added.

The report showed evidence that adult HIV infection rates have decreased in Kenya, Zimbabwe and several Caribbean nations.

The average life span in Zimbabwe for both men and women is less than 40 years. The current average lifespan for women in Zimbabwe has at 34 years been described by the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report as the lowest in the world while that of men is 37 years old. Swaziland was included in WHO indicators as having the lowest life expectancy for men at 36 years.

Zimbabwe’s declining HIV prevalence rate while encouraging, the country needs to move fast in putting strategies in place to ensure a continued down trend of the disease which has been resulting in 3000 deaths per week.

Zimbabwe would certainly want to see figures continue to go down as some experts still feel the country has a long way to go. They feel 20 percent is still too high.

According to the Zimbabwe National HIV & AIDS estimates 2005 preliminary report the decrease in HIV prevalence could be due to increases in protective behavior changes, increasing mortality, or migration out of the country.

The National Aids Council (NAC) has come up with a National behavioral Change Strategy in which promotion of faithfulness will be one of the major focuses.

"We want to promote faithfulness, drawing experiences from countries that have seen a decline in HIV & AIDS before such as Uganda," said Oscar Mundida, NAC’s national advocacy coordinator. "Uganda’s behavioral change campaign was based on what was called ‘zero grazing’ meaning ‘just graze at home’. This is why NAC has come up with posters written ‘Keep your love under one roof".

NAC believes the biggest threat to combating HIV & AIDS is stigma and discrimination.

Everybody knows the major ways of transmission of HIV, but frequently we are not talking entirely openly and freely about it," said NAC in its Zimbabwe National Behavioral Change Strategy for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of HIV 2006-2010 report soon to be launched.

"That’s why we have not seen high powered people coming out to say they have the disease," he said. "We also want to identify role models in different communities who can talk openly about HIV & AIDS."

IVF has also through The Steps for the future campaign in which it shows films, encouraged the community to openly talk about HIV through its discussions at the end of each screening. Dialogue has included issues like HIV & AIDS prevention, treatment, stigma, discrimination, testing, disclosure, mother to child transmission and relationships.

Behavioral change has been central to IVF campaigns, with films shown emphasizing condom use, disclosure and early treatment for opportunistic infections.

The National Aids Council (NAC) said while awareness levels were high this had not necessarily equaled to behavioral change.

In the report NAC has recommended focus areas and strategies in ensuring a downward trend of HIV & AIDS prevalence rate.

These include more male participation particularly the elite, more involvement of people living with HIV and AIDS, addressing intergenerational sex (sugar daddies), advocating for more condom protection, more focus on married women and youths as high risk groups, promotion of faithfulness and couple communication. 

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