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Zimbabwe News Diary: The governance response to HIV and AIDS
Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA)
Extracted from GAP e-newsflash - February 2007
February 14, 2007

News idea
After more than five years of a practical donor freeze on the Zimbabwean government, it is important to know the overall effect of the freeze in terms of HIV/AIDS – that is, to determine whether there has been a rise in infection rates or other secondary effects that have an implication on the fight against AIDS.

Questions you may want to ask:

  • Which area of the AIDS crisis has been the hardest hit?
  • Have there been positive developments as a result of this? What were they?
  • How have NGOs been affected?
  • What are the implications for people living with AIDS?
  • What are the implications for prevention programmes?

News idea
Find out the projected national response to the pandemic in 2007 according to the Zimbabwe National AIDS Council Before the UNGASS 2005 summit, Zimbabwe NGOs complained that the government did not consult with them over the country’s submission. At the 2006 World AIDS Conference in Toronto, Zimbabwe was lauded for having a declining HIV prevalence rate. There is need to determine the practical measures and indicators that the Zimbabwean government put in place to effect the decrease in HIV infection rates.

Questions you may want to ask:

  • Are there indicators of a better relationship between the government and NGOs working in the field? Speak to NGOs working in the area of HIV/AIDS and also to the Ministry of Health. Have there been any changes in the relationship between government and NGOs in the past two years?
  • Speak to the Ministry of Health to determine what government activities were used to bring down the HIV prevalence rate.
News idea
Food security has been one of the areas hardest hit by the donor freeze on Zimbabwe. There are estimated to be about three million living in severe poverty with little or no food. The situation has been found to have a debilitating effect on the HIV and AIDS scourge.

Questions you may want to ask:
  • What is the current situation regarding food security especially for low income groups in Zimbabwe?
  • Has food security improved in the last two years?
  • What do organizations such as World Vision and Food and Agriculture Organisation have to say about the situation on the ground?
  • How might the food security situation, especially during the rainy season, affect the HIV/AIDS infected and affected people, especially orphans who rely heavily on donor organizations to provide food support?

News idea
Women are the majority HIV/AIDS infected population in Zimbabwe.

Questions you may want to ask:

  • What is being done by the government to combat the spread of the disease amongst women? (Speak to Ministry of Health, NGOs dealing with HIV/AIDS, and PLWHA).
  • Is there guaranteed access to the Nevirapine drug at all state hospitals for example? If not, why is this so and what are the suggestions from NGOs and government ministries on how the problem can be handled.
  • Is prophylaxis treatment available when women are raped? If not, what are the barriers and how can they be tackled?
  • What are the current statistics of HIV prevalence in women? (Speak to Hospital authorities, ministry of health, HIV-related NGOs, other caregivers and medical experts).

News idea
What are the problems being experienced by local generic drug manufacturers and what is being done to mitigate the situation?

Questions you may want to ask:

  • Is it possible that foreign partnerships can help the situation?
  • Private chemists seem to be well stocked with ARVs while public hospitals are struggling to access the drugs, what is the major cause of this situation?
  • Speak to ARV drug manufacturers/suppliers both on the black market and legitimate traders to hear different points of view, speak to private pharmacies, Ministry of health, NGOs.

Possible Sources for Comment and More Information:

Regional news ideas

News idea
The National AIDS Councils that are present in each SADC country are as a result of international and regional agreements made by all African countries to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS on the continent in the most effective manner possible.

Questions you may want to ask:

  • How effective are the National AIDS Councils in the different SADC countries?
  • Are they able to meet their mandate or are they falling prey to disturbing elements such as budget cuts, etc.
  • To what extent are these councils accountable to the public?
  • Have there been any public reports or evaluations regarding their operations?
  • How does this body comply with the guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) "three ones" strategy?
  • What is the relationship between the AIDS Council in your country and government, how closely does it work with civil society and how does it represent the interests of people living with AIDS?

News idea
An assessment of SADC’s 2005 Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) that identifies HIV/AIDS as a threat to its effective implementation is needed to better inform the region as to the project’s progress. The plan is meant to improve the operations of SADC including in the area of the administration of HIV/AIDS in the region.

Questions you may want to ask:

  • What has SADC done to ensure the following targets:
  • Harmonization of regional policies and strategies
  • Establishing mechanisms to monitor and evaluate progress made by member states towards targeted objectives so as to reduce impact of HIV/AIDS
  • Mobilise resources for the regional multi-sectoral response
  • To ensure one agreed framework and one system for the monitoring and one coordinating authority. (Contact SADC Secretariat Information Office via e-mail and request interview or send query to SADC Secretary General)

News idea
Access to ARVs is a problem experienced by many of the SADC member countries. Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) says there is need for newer generics to be manufactured in order to fight drug resistance and side effects. Also, treatment costs are scheduled to rise in the medium term. In Malawi, where MSF has up to 11,000 people on treatment, it is roughly estimated that about 1,600 will have to switch to new drug combinations in three years time, which will take up 70 per cent of the entire treatment budget.

Questions you may want to ask:

  • How does SADC hope to tackle this problem? Has it been discussed or tabled for discussion at any of its meetings? (Comment from SADC Secretariat)
  • To what extent has SADC prepared their members for the scenario described above?
  • Are there any countries in the region that are good examples of best practice in the area of ARV treatment? How?

News idea
Women have been found to bear the brunt of the HIV AIDS pandemic in southern Africa. What is the response of SADC to this phenomenon? Are there any regional plans to increase access to anti-retrovirals for women who make up the majority of those infected?

Questions you may want to ask:

  • Are any of the countries in the SADC region specifically targeting women? Why are they doing that and why should they be doing that? (Speak to donors, e.g. USAID, DFID, UNAIDS, and speak to SADC secretariat)
  • Is SADC or other regional bodies including UNAIDS looking at a treatment/prevention package specifically directed at women in the medium term? If so, what does this package involve?
  • What is the current situation of pregnant women who are HIV+ in the region? (Speak to regional NGOs dealing with the issue such as Family Health International, UNICEF, UNAIDS)

Possible Sources for Comment and More Information:

NOTE: The editor is ready to be of service in providing structural tips on how to develop your story.

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Watch out for the next newsletter in the last week of February!

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Gertrude Mwondela
GAP e-newsflash editor

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