South African top singer and United Nations goodwill ambassador for malaria and children welfare Yvonne Chaka Chaka has challenged government leaders to utilise local health institutions just like ordinary citizens if the fight against HIV and Aids is to be won.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Chaka Chaka told a high-level meeting for East and Southern African countries on HIV and Aids in Victoria Falls yesterday that until political leaders start using local health facilities and adhere to the Abuja Declaration on health funding, the fight against HIV and Aids would not succeed.
“We need to make sure that our government commits itself to the Abuja Declaration. It is not being adhered to by our own governments.
Minister [David] Parirenyatwa, let us adhere to this commitment,” she said.
According to the Abuja Declaration, African government’s committed themselves to allocate at least 15% of their National Budget towards the health sector to ensure health affordability for ordinary people.
But most countries, Zimbabwe included, have been failing to meet the quota due to various reasons, chief among them wrong prioritisation.
Chaka Chaka said if an Aids-free generation was to be achieved, government must also prioritise infrastructure development of health facilities.
“We need to include everyone in the fight against HIV and Aids. Honourable minister, it is a shame for us that when we go to our hospitals and clinics, they are shabby. How can you expect people to get healed when they are in a shabby hospital?” she queried.
“Can we and all the leaders use the very same hospitals that ordinary people are using?”
The meeting seeks to find ways of reducing increased new HIV infections as well as curb deaths caused by the disease or related illnesses.
“Why do you expect me to go to a hospital that you could not go to? You are not believing in your own system. You want me to use Parirenyatwa Hospital and I don’t see you there at all. Minister, the truth needs to be told that we don’t run countries like that,” Chaka Chaka said.
In Africa most leaders such as President Robert Mugabe go for overseas medication while using public resources.
Mugabe and many in his Cabinet use millions of dollars in public funds on medication and treatment in foreign countries, while ordinary people fail to access services due to the collapse of the health sector.
Parirenyatwa in his response said the government was shifting its focus to prevention, pleading with the donor community to channel more resources towards the same.
He said for long, the focus had been on treatment as a way to reduce deaths related to the pandemic.
“Much more needs to be done, but critically, we need to focus on prevention. We need to craft our campaign on how we take the prevention message to our communities. We have come here for prevention and it’s prevention. We want to revitalise our target on prevention,” Parirenyatwa said.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNaids) deputy executive director, who is also attending the conference, praised the Zimbabwean government for setting up a sustainable HIV and Aids fighting initiative through the establishment of the National Aids Council (NAC).
He challenged African countries to copy how Zimbabwe had achieved the setting-up of NAC.