Zimbabwe is a country that I fell in love with the moment I arrived during a trip to Africa in 2013. It is also a country that is recovering from a decade long economic fall. Over the past decade, a lot has changed in terms of the political, economic and social landscape. The availability of goods has improved, inflation has declined and Gross Domestic Product growth has been positive, but in many ways there has been little change at the micro-level and unemployment remains high.
Zimbabwe’s health delivery system’s recovery also continues, but still with many resource and personnel challenges. Despite a recent decline of HIV prevalence in adult population, Zimbabwe remains among the countries with the highest HIV prevalence in Sub Saharan Africa, with 1,400,000 people living with HIV, according to data from the UNAIDS (2013). Those affected by HIV and AIDS often live in poverty as they face the duel burdens of the cost of the treatment and community stigma that makes it hard to work. Poverty in turn fuels the spread of HIV as those affected migrate in search of work or turn to sex work to make a living.
So what is being done to change this situation?
Oxfam Australia has a long history of working to end poverty and injustice in Zimbabwe. Through their HIV and AIDS Program, Oxfam aims to halt the spread of HIV and empower people affected by the disease – especially women and girls, people with disabilities, young people and mobile populations – to exercise their rights to prevention, quality treatment and care, and sustainable livelihoods. Given Oxfam’s vision of a just world without poverty, tackling the impact and spread of HIV and AIDS is an obvious priority.
To deliver this program, Oxfam Australia works in partnership with local organisations in provinces with high rates of HIV infection in Zimbabwe. These partnerships also enable Oxfam to address broader issues such as TB infection, food security, livelihoods, orphans and vulnerable children as well as strengthening links with government services and addressing issues around access to ART.
In 2015 alone, more than 51,000 people directly benefited from this program
The program integrates prevention, treatment, care and support through activities such as:
- Working with vulnerable people – the very poor, women, orphans, sex workers and men who have sex with men – to help them to protect themselves and reduce the impact of the epidemic on their lives
- Supporting treatment programs which provide care and support to people affected by HIV and AIDS including providing people who are vulnerable to contracting HIV with mobile clinic services four times a year.
- Formation of support groups and parenting clubs to facilitate increased HIV information dissemination, treatment literacy and better choices around sexual reproductive health behaviours.
- Helping households and communities to survive and recover from the impacts of the epidemic through home-based care, and support for health, education and welfare systems.
- Ensuring people living with HIV understand the importance of treatment and are able to access and afford it. This includes increased access to essential medicines, voluntary HIV/AIDS testing, counselling and other services and provision of training to give them the skills to earn enough money to afford their treatment.
- Engagement with Government to ensure State accountability to people living with HIV and their participation in decision making.
- Capacity building for civil society organisations to address the rights of women and girls, people with disabilities, young people and mobile populations.
One example that highlights how Oxfam works with women with disabilities living with HIV to help them earn enough to live and afford their treatment is the establishment of a fund where each woman is given US$100 so they can initiate income generating projects such as petty trading, vending and sewing. This fund provides women with a source of income and, by extension, the ability to more readily access quality care, treatment and nutrition.
Another example is where 677 women participated in savings and lending groups which helped them to increase their income by an average of $100 per month. As a result the majority indicated they are now able to access the health facilities because they can afford to pay the transport costs required to get there. These groups are also a great place for women to discuss their health, and as a result many members have gone for HIV testing screening and are therefore able to make informed decisions about their status.
Help us support the great work of Oxfam Australia
So as part of the Walk to a Better World campaign we aim to raise at least $15,000 to contribute to Oxfam’s HIV and AIDS program.
Please help us to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS and ensure those affected by HIV have the opportunity to live a full life and break the poverty cycle.
Please note: Donations over $2 are tax deductible through Oxfam Australia.