Mabasa Sasa in New York
Ending Aids is everyone’s business, and while HIV prevalence statistics are starting to come down, they still remain too high, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
The First Lady made these remarks at an event arranged by the Organisation of African First Ladies here on Tuesday as part of the programme of the ongoing 73rd Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Free to Shine Campaign – an Africa-wide initiative – seeks to reinforce political commitment to ending childhood Aids and improving the health of mothers.
In Zimbabwe, the First Lady is advancing this cause via her Angel of Hope Foundation, which among other things is advancing access to healthcare in the fields of HIV and cancer, and increasing awareness while also mobilising resources to augment Ministry of Health and Child Care outreach work.
On Tuesday, the First Lady said: “Zimbabwe is among 21 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that is worst affected by the HIV and Aids epidemic, with adult HIV prevalence of 13,7 percent.
“I am pleased to note that the prevalence has come down from 30 percent in the late 90s, but in reality the HIV prevalence is still unacceptably high. About 1,33 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe, of which 72 900 – which is 5,5 percent – are children of zero to 14 years of age, while about 64 000 are pregnant women living with HIV. Over 1,1 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe are receiving anti-retroviral treatment.”
She commended the Health Ministry and its partners for rolling out the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-free, Mentored, and Safe Women) Model.
“I will continue to advocate for such programmes to benefit adolescent girls and young women as ending Aids is everyone’s business.
“Through the Ministry of Health and Child Care, working with the National Aids Council, UNAids, Egpaf and other partners, I will be developing a five-year strategy – 2019 to 2023 – that will guide me to implement activities towards ending Aids by 2030; and to work to integrate this with the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls.
“As the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and as a champion and an ambassador of women’s empowerment and child health, I have founded the Angel of Hope Foundation through which I can resource-mobilise to meet the needs of children, women and girls; and augment the resources that are allocated to health through the Ministry of Finance and those that come through the national Aids Levy.”
The First Lady said the Angel of Hope Foundation had acquired a mobile unit to conduct cervical cancer screening in remote parts of the country, taking a leaf from strategies being employed by Kenya’s First Lady Mrs Margaret Kenyatta.
“As a new First Lady, I have a lot to learn from (other) First Ladies like Mama (Jeannette) Kagame (of Rwanda); I also ask for her support and to educate me in some of these issues,” she said.
The First Lady informed delegates that the leadership of Zimbabwe’s Second Republic fully supported the work she was doing for women and children.