Tuesday, October 21, 2014 Local time: 11:54

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Zimbabwe Marks AIDS Day Amid Fears Gains at Risk as Donor Support Ebbs

Resource shortages threaten progress - a new United Nations report released Wednesday said funding for HIV eased from $15.9 billion in 2009 to $15 billion in 2010, well short of what is needed

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Tatenda Gumbo, Sandra NyairaNothando Sibanda

Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world Thursday in marking World AIDS Day with activities in the eastern city of Mutare where activists urged the government to boost the economy so local funds can fill the gap in international donor funds to fight the pandemic.

Activists the world over are concerned that efforts to eradicate HIV and AIDS could be at risk as donor governments slash budgets at home and abroad.

A new United Nations report released Wednesday said funding for HIV eased from $15.9 billion in 2009 to $15 billion in 2010, well short of what is needed.

Marking World AIDS Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the world is finally in a position to eradicate AIDS, but added funding was critical to future progress.

He urged international donors to come up with the estimated $24 billion that is needed annually to fully finance anti-AIDS initiatives.

Marked every year on December 01, the world marked AIDS day under the theme 'Getting to Zero' focusing on achieving three targets: "Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths".

Kumar Chandiramani of the medical charity group Doctors Without Borders said his organization is worried about resources getting scarcer.

"Funding is always an issue," Chandiramani told VOA. "It is important also that any cuts normally may not have an impact tomorrow but would have a domino or cascading effect. This is something that we have to be extremely watchful over and which is why at the international scale, different NGOs, including MSF, are talking about this funding cut."

Mari Carmen Vinoles, Zimbabwe chief of Doctors Without Borders, said lack of funding is likely to reverse gains made so far by Harare in fighting the deadly virus.

Zimbabwean officials estimate there are 1.2 million people in the country living with HIV, of whom roughly 400,000 are currently on antiretroviral medications.

Another 200,000 people are waiting to be admitted to ARV programs - a number advocates say can increase if funding continues to decrease.

The eastern Manicaland province capital of Mutare was the national focal point for World AIDS Day in Zimbabwe this year. Observations were held at Sakubva Staduim with many of the civic groups in the trenches battling against AIDS. Health Minister Henry Madzorera and Public Services Minister Lucia Matibenga officiated.

Raymond Yekeye, National AIDS Council operations director, also present, said getting to zero is closer than many can imagine. He told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the international effort must carry right down to the local level to have an impact.

Lindiwe Chaza-Jangira, director of the Zimbabwe AIDS Network, said the key to getting to zero is education and prevention at all stages of life, starting with the mother to baby transmission to young adults to adults.

For a closer look at where Zimbabwe stands in the fight against HIV/AIDS reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to National AIDS Council communications officer Orirando Manwere and Chief Richman Rangwani of Mhondoro, an activist who is living with HIV.

Manwere said Zimbabwe’s answer to falling funding is to develop local resources.

Chief Rangwani said he is worried by the funding threat, saying people's lives would be put at risk in the absence of other strategies to ensure sufficient drug supplies.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Charles Ray today unveiled a new partnership with two Zimbabwean hospitals in Matebeleland province under the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR, shifting the focus to the involvement of young people in sexual and reproductive health in determining steps to fight HIV/AIDS.

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