The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Robert Mugabe, says legislators should take the initiative of getting tested for HIV and publicly disclosing their status so that they can contribute to the fight against the pandemic through eliminating discrimination.
Cde Mugabe was speaking at the official launch of the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV and AIDS in the capital where he said the fight against the pandemic is far from over. He added that the latest initiative by legislators is one of the interventions that can contribute effectively to the national response.President Mugabe said the legislators should lead an exemplary life by going for voluntary HIV testing, urging them to disclose their status as part of a broader programme to achieve the global campaign that focuses on the three zeros, namely, zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero deaths related to HIV and AIDS.
â€œI have witnessed the challenges that both legislators and our people face as a result of HIV and AIDS and yet I do not remember any lawmaker who has come out in the open about their HIV status. I therefore hope that the organisation will foster a conducive environment for lawmakers to disclose their status and help in the fight against stigma and discrimination,â€ said President Mugabe.
Cde Mugabe also took a swipe at some cabinet ministers, legislators and other influential people who knowingly spread the pandemic by engaging in extramarital affairs, saying this practise should stop as it negates all the gains made in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
President Mugabe acknowledged that Zimbabwe has achieved milestones in the fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic through various policies such as the establishment of the national AIDS levy, but called for the formulation of more programmes that boost the national response.
â€œWe have travelled this far with our own domestic response, but we should not be complacent, instead we should come up with measures and appropriate policies so that we continue reducing the prevalence rate. I have no doubt that if we maintain this momentum we will be able to record some degree of success,â€ the President added.
Various stakeholders in the health sector noted the achievements made by the country so far, but called for more innovative ideas to boost the national health basket as depending on donor funding for such a critical area can be catastrophic, especially if they pull out.
The Zimbabwean Parliamentarians Against HIV and AIDS Network is a non-profit and non-partisan voluntary organisation open to all legislators who are committed to the fight against HIV and AIDS.
The launch was attended by Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Arthur Mutambara, Health and Child Welfare Minister, Dr Henry Madzorera, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Lovemore Moyo, legislators from across the political divide, AIDS service organisations and representatives from the United Nations among others.
The organisation will be working with various regional and international organisations in the fight against HIV which has killed over 22,5 million people in Africa.