The United States of America remains Zimbabwe’s most generous ally regardless of political differences, with support for the country’s health sector now totaling US$1 billion since 2013, TellZim News can report.
Part of that support is being directed towards the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) which is being implemented in 14 districts of the country including Zaka.
The US deputy chief of mission at the country’s embassy in Harare, Thomas Hastings and his team visited Ndanga on Monday to get a clearer appreciation of the work his country supports at the district hospital.
Ndanga and St Anthony’s Musiso Mission hospitals are the two centres offering VMMC services with US support in the district.
Hastings was briefed on how the program had benefitted over 36 000 men since its inception in 2013.
Representatives from the Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals (ZACH), which is one of the implementing partners through ZAZIC, told the team that uptake for VMMC services had been increasing steadily over the years.
“We have been making incremental gains since the program began in 2013. We circumcised around 1 000 people in the first year, and I am pleased that as attitudes changed, the output increased steadily until today. A total of 10 954 were circumcised in the year running from October 2018 to September 2019,” said ZAZIC program manager Dr Joseph Hove.
He said communities were now better informed and were in a better position to appreciate the health and hygiene benefits of (VMMC).
“We are strongly encouraged by the cumulative changes in the manner by which societies that did not practice circumcision as a traditional rite are viewing the practice today,” said Hove.
He also said random control trials conducted in East Africa over 10 years ago had indicated that circumcising four men averted one new HIV infection.
International Training and Centre for Health national program officer Phiona Marongwe said the VMMC program in Zaka had averted 9 000 new infections.
“This program has seen some 36 682 men getting circumcised in Zaka district, meaning 9 000 new HIV infections were averted, if we are to use those randomized trials as our yardstick,” said Marongwe.
The random control trials were a fairly reliable mathematical research model which was used to estimate the impact of circumcision in reducing the HIV prevalence rate in some East and West African countries.
In his remarks, Hastings said he was pleased that the US had proved to be the country’s most generous friend regardless of some political differences at governmental level.
“The United States is proud of its record as Zimbabwe’s most committed friend in the areas of health, education and food security. I am impressed by the work being done with US support here at Ndanga Hospital despite the harsh economic problems affecting every sector and every program. As of now, some 9 000 new HIV infections have been averted courtesy of this program.
“The people here at Ndanga, and indeed in Zimbabwe as a whole, have proved to be a resilient people who know how to innovate and come up with Plan B when things get hard. The United States is there to render support wherever we can,” said Hastings.
The United States supports many HIV and Aids programs all over the world through the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) which was signed by then President George W. Bush in 2003.
PEPFAR has received strong bipartisan support in the country’s congress ever since, and it represents the biggest commitment by any individual country to the fight against HIV and Aids.
Hastings said the fact that PEPFAR had survived three administrations (Bush, Barrack Obama and Donald Trump) with fundamental policy differences of their own was testimony to the United States’ commitment in the global fight against HIV and Aids.
Funding is channeled through the US Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) which has so far invested over US$1 billion in different HIV and Aids-related programs for Zimbabwe alone.
Through USAID, the United States also provides millions of dollars every year towards food security for vulnerable Zimbabweans.
In 2019, the US provided over US$330 million to the country; US$163 of which was directed towards HIV and Aids programs, over US100 million towards food aid and over US$10 million towards assisting victims of Cyclone Idai.