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America's PEPFAR Programme Boosts Fight Against HIV/AIDS

As the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) marks its ten year anniversary globally, the United States President’s PEPFAR coordinator in Zimbabwe, Megan Petersen, says the fund has made significant progress in scaling up treatment for people living with HIV.

Petterson said the program has assisted in improving access to voluntary counseling, testing services and ensuring access to treatment for HIV positive mothers under the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT).

PEPFAR, which was established ten years ago in 2003 by the Bush administration, has contributed significantly to the HIV/AIDS response in Zimbabwe.

PEPFAR supports the country in prevention efforts through programmes such as male circumcision, that some argue helps in stopping the spread of the killer virus, the PMTCT and testing services. The fund also supports Zimbabwe’s national anti-retroviral programme.

An estimated 160,000 people out of the 600,000 receiving treatment in the country are supported by PEPFAR.

Petersen said the fund has a lot to celebrate in Zimbabwe as it marks its 10 year anniversary, adding the programmes support has made significant progress in reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on communities.

Petersen said the U.S remains committed to supporting Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS response as part of its global efforts to reduce HIV infections.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Zimbabwe is one of the implementing agencies supported by PEPFAR. CDC Zimbabwe works in partnership with the government of Zimbabwe to strengthen health systems and improve the human resources capacity within the sector.

CDC director Peter Kilmarx said his agency has benefited immensely from the PEPFAR funding over the years.

Other PEPFAR implementing partners include organizations such as the Community Working Group on Health, Organisation for Public Health Interventions and the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation.

With so much uncertainty about HIV/AIDS funding worldwide, Kilmarx said he hopes PEPFAR funding in Zimbabwe will continue, adding a lot still needs to be done on the ground.

Also speaking on the issue of funding, Petersen said she hopes that funding for 2014 would be increased.

PEPFAR has pledged about US$95 million in support for Zimbabwe this year. About $5 million of that amount is to support the government’s plan to eradicate new HIV infections in children and save mothers' lives.

About US$20 million is to scale up adult treatment and about US$19.6 million is for voluntary medical male circumcision. PEPFAR also supports the medical education partnership initiative at the University of Zimbabwe which aims to strengthen medical education and research.

About 1.2 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe and most of them depend on the PEPFAR’s continued support to Zimbabwe for their survival.