THE 2nd National HIV and AIDS Conference started Monday in Harare.
Organisers of the conference said the meeting brought together stakeholders to review the country’s response to the HIV pandemic as well as find the way forward regarding eliminating pediatric HIV and AIDS.
President Mugabe officially opened the conference.
Delegates who are attending the four day conference include former President of Botswana, Mr Festus Mogae, Health Ministers from Angola, Swaziland and Botswana, and several non-governmental organisations.
The conference is running under the theme, ‘Eliminate new HIV infections in children, keep mothers alive,’ and is being organised by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the National Aids Council (NAC) as well as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
President Mugabe, in his speech, called on men to be roped in all programmes that mitigate the pandemic.
He said, “The role of men in society is unquestionable. It is for this reason that men should take their place in the HIV response, both for their own health as well as in support of women and children.
“Sadly, few men access services on time as evidenced by our treatment figures which show that fewer men are on treatment compared to women.”
The president highlighted that the rate of men getting tested for HIV is decreasing.
He said mother-to-child transmission of HIV is a global injustice which can be eliminated especially now that advances have been made in terms of prevention.
Said the President, “Evidence coming from the developed countries shows that new cases of HIV infections in children have been virtually eliminated to rates which are lower than two per cent.
“Such low rates of mother-to-child transmission are also possible in developing countries and have been reported by other neighbouring countries such as Botswana, giving us hope that as Zimbabwe, we can also attain this milestone.”
The President said the large numbers of children living with HIV should be a reminder that there is need for intensified and effective measures that will propel the nation towards an HIV-free generation.
He encouraged all couples to have children after they know their HIV status.
The veteran leader said the decrease in HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe is proof of government’s commitment which aims to eliminate the pandemic.
“Such remarkable declines in prevalence bear testimony to the high level commitment and leadership by government which is strengthened by a successful multi-stakeholder involvement in the country’s fight against the epidemic,” the President said.
Over one million Zimbabweans are HIV positive with only 360 000 on treatment and 23 000 of them are children.
The conference ends on Thursday.
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