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Zimbabwean HIV/AIDS Activist Urges Widened Access To US Funding

A Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS activist said in testimony Tuesday on Capital Hill in Washington that she is disheartened to see continued high infection rates for women and girls.

Lucia Mbofana of Zimbabwe's Girl Child Network said Zimbabwe would make better progress towards reducing HIV infection rates if it were a focus country of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, urging this change.

Though Zimbabwe is not a PEPFAR focus country, it does receive substantial aid for HIV/AIDS programs through USAID and various nongovernmental agencies.

Mbofana said poverty, poor education and cultural myths translate into higher levels of HIV infection through the sexual abuse of vulnerable young girls and women.

Mbofana told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that she hoped her appeal might increase Zimbabwe’s chances of becoming a PEPFAR focus country, especially as funding is proposed to double to US$30 billion over five years.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat,joined global advocates in their call to put women and girls at the center of anti-AIDS efforts.

Rep. McCollum alluded to the recent statement by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top advisor to President George Bush on HIV/AIDS, noting that for every person in the world being added to the ranks of those receiving antiretroviral therapy, six are becoming newly infected, and in Africa some 60% of those newly infected are women and girls.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...