THE United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has launched two projects worth a combined US$78 million to provide critical HIV healthcare services to over half a million Zimbabweans.
USAID said in a statement Tuesday, the projects will cover for a period of one year.
"The United States is proud to stand with the people of Zimbabwe to address HIV," USAID/Zimbabwe mission director Art Brown said in a statement.
"Together with our partners, USAID is ensuring that People Living With HIV can start treatment early, adhere to treatment, reach viral load suppression, and live longer healthier lives," Brown added.
"We are also working to reach 95% of the estimated 40 000 female sex workers in Zimbabwe to help reduce HIV infections, provide onsite initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART), and transfer clients to public sector facilities."
Together with the Organisation for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID), the USAID it will provide care and treatment services for more than 500 000 People Living With HIV, at 700 health facilities in 24 districts, for the next five years.
OPHID will expand client-centered services in facilities and communities and train more than 12 000 healthcare workers on innovative models to increase testing, ART initiation and adherence, and viral load testing.
USAID and OPHID will support the development of national-level policy, strategy, and health care guidelines, which the ministry of health will cascade to the whole country.
Through the one-year programme, the USAID and the Centre for Sexual Health, HIV and AIDS Research (CeSHHAR) will help close the remaining gaps in HIV prevention and care for sex workers in the five hotspot districts of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, and Masvingo, and three border posts with Mozambique, Botswana, and Zambia.
Working directly with female sex workers, the USAID will reduce new HIV infections by increasing the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms, and other emerging prevention technologies.
The US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said: "PEPFAR's efforts to fight HIV will ultimately help Zimbabwe meet critical AIDS treatment targets. Our support breaks barriers and closes remaining gaps in sustaining and accelerating HIV prevention and care."
Since PEPFAR's inception in Zimbabwe in 2006, the US investments of more than US$1,2 billion have led to an 80% decline in the annual number of HIV-related deaths. More than 1,15 million Zimbabweans are currently on lifesaving antiretroviral medicines (ARVs).