Citizen in Action Southern Africa (CIASA) joins the rest of the world in commemorating and observing the World AIDS Day today, the 01st of December 2021, under the global theme, “End Inequalities, End Aids”. CIASA took this as an opportunity to generate an increased awareness on the need to end inequalities in the HIV response through upscaled HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support. This commemoration presents a unique opportunity to reflect on the prevailing challenges and gaps in the current initiatives to end AIDS by 2030. This year’s observance come at a time when the world is still battling under siege from COVID-19 pandemic which has somewhat reversed the gains achieved in attaining the 95-95-95 targets. We therefore remind the government of Zimbabwe, partners and other interested stakeholders that as part of COVID-19 recovery path, the country should reflect possible ways to address the challenges presented by COVID-19 pandemic. Global reports have revealed that People Living with HIV may be at increased risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19 if they are not adhering to treatment or live with certain co-morbidities than people without HIV. Whilst the number of new HIV infections is decreasing in Zimbabwe, many subpopulations remain at high risk of infection due to lack of or limited access to decentralized HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support during COVID19 induced lockdowns. For PLHIV and groups which are at higher risk of contracting HIV, including persons who inject drugs, the risk of COVID-19 infection increases if they have certain comorbidities which may result in increased disease burden. An additional concern for PLHIV is the double stigma that have arisen for PLHIV who also tested positive for COVID-19 resulting in a double tragedy. As public health and health care workers try to tackle the needs of the populations that they serve, they should begin to realize the need for a change in the infrastructure that will include more efficient partnerships between public health, health care, and HIV programs including partnering CSOs in the HIV/AIDS response programming.
Our Concern for Consideration:
PLHIV that also have other underlying comorbidities are a great disadvantage from the negative consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. For those that may test positive for both HIV and COVID-19, the increased psychosocial and mental health burdens stemming from stress and isolation, as well as, experiencing additional barriers that inhibit access to care, which relegate them to become more disenfranchised. As we commemorate this World AIDS Day, it is very important during this era of COVID19 pandemic for these challenges and barriers to be addressed so that these PLHIV can maintain continuity of care, as well as, their social and mental support systems.
Our Messages to the HIV/ AIDS Responders:
- There is need for integration of mental health, emotional wellbeing and psychosocial support services into HIV related interventions to enhance attainment of the 95-95-95 Fast Track targets.
- The government should be in place mechanisms for undisrupted adherence to ART, psychosocial support and mental wellness during COVID19.
- All stakeholders, CSOs included, should promote messages related to stigma reduction for PLHIV.
Citizen in Action Southern Africa (CIASA) is a people centric organization established by a group of activists coming together to defend, promote and empower marginalized people to fully enjoy their rights. The CIASA was formed after the realization that marginalized communities are being left behind in the empowerment and national development discourses of several Southern African countries owing to lack of specific targeted intervention created for people by people with people. CIASA was established to provide oversight and think tanking around the welfare and rights of marginalized groups especially women and girls with a sole purpose of ensure progressive realization and enjoyment of rights by all.
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