Writes Key Correspondent, Banza Chela.
The commemoration of World AIDS Day 2010 has come with a lot of challenges considering a global economic crisis is threatening to undermine public investments in the health sector.
My message as a KC living with HIV is: the time is now for people living with HIV, human rights activists, programmers and those living affected with the epidemic to call for solidarity and help keep HIV on the frontlines to save hundreds of thousands of lives and demonstrate the importance of continued HIV investments to broader health and development goals.
The situation has coincided with a scam involving the theft of billions of Zambian Kwacha at the Ministry of Health in Zambia that caused a suspension of aid into the Ministry of Health.
As we celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1st, 2010, we need to relentlessly call for the use of more local resources and also create speedy and timely consultations with the Ministry of Health by creating follow ups on budget tracking of health resources and a review of appropriate government documents and other pieces of legislation in this context.
We have to use World AIDS Day as a golden opportunity to call for solidarity in order to reverse the trend and create a strategic plan for the funding of health from the Government Treasury. Of course, we can also use this event as an enlightening and helpful tool.
I hope we can use the 2010 World AIDS Day as an opportunity to scale up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and sustain them to ensure that we reverse HIV infections and halt the spread of HIV in Zambia. This can only happen on the availability of resources that we have been deprived of by the said scams.
World AIDS Day was first observed in 1988 and it has, since then, served to raise awareness about the epidemic, honour those who have died, focus attention on issues that are key to a successful response, and inspire positive action that we have to voice out in an audible tone this morning.
The theme for WAD 2010 is “Universal Access and Human Rights” building on the slogan, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise” which has been used in the past to call for sustained AIDS funding. This theme and slogan should help us focus on the promises made by leaders at all levels to individuals, families and communities to address the critical need to protect human rights and remove discriminatory barriers to attain universal access for all to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
This year’s campaign continues to accelerate the global response to HIV and AIDS by helping individuals to claim their treatment care and support rights through the lighting of the ‘Lights for Rights’ campaign, throughout 2011. We ought to work towards halting new infections in order for Zambia to attain Vision 2030 of realizing a generation free from the threat of HIV and AIDS.
World AIDS Day is not merely a one-day event, but rather serves as a “kick-off” for the forthcoming year to enable individuals, communities, organizations and businesses to become involved in the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and for the promotion of new or existing HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, treatment care and support programmes. It is also a time to reflect, memorialize and show compassion for those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
With a prevalence rate of 14.3% and over 283,863 adults and children on ART at the end of December, 2009, it is evident Zambia has made progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS however more than 80% of the population do not know their HIV status. It is obvious that much more needs to be done in sensitizing the communities to the importance of accessing prevention, treatment, care and support services.
There are many gaps that need to be filled in the national response however leadership’s role in keeping the Promise to Stop AIDS stands top among them. To keep the promise and stop AIDS requires bold and courageous leadership. It therefore requires that anyone and everyone who has influence must use it to fight HIV and AIDS and ensure continued funding to the health sector.