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‘Thousands of HIV+ women left behind in Global Fund programmes’

Thousands of rural women who need assistance are being left behind in the millions of dollars being given to Zimbabwe by the Global Fund to fight HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, non-profit groups have said.

Tendayi Kateketa Westerhof, Regional Coordinator Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, Pan African Positive
Tendayi Kateketa Westerhof, Regional Coordinator Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, Pan African Positive

The Global Fund this year granted Zimbabwe $502 million, with government giving assurances that the money will not be misused.

Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition Zimbabwe (PAPWC-Zim) national coordinator and HIV activist Tendayi Westerhof said consultation meetings held in Mashonaland West’s five districts with 160 women revealed that 56 percent of them have never heard about the Global Fund and do not know how they are supposed to benefit from it.

“We just want to explore entry points where as women we can take part and contribute to Global Fund in-country processes. Many women do not have knowledge on how to participate in those programmes,” she told the Daily News on the side-lines of a PAPWC-Zim conference held in Kadoma this week.

“We want to continue the momentum as PAPWC-Zim to ensure that women in vulnerable communities and in rural areas have access to information.

“They have wishes and desires, they want functional support groups and we want to be able to help them build their capacities in order to sustain support groups in their various communities,” she said, adding “once empowered, they can do a lot to help their families and contribute to their communities.”

“We want to make sure that they access knowledge and that their voices are amplified and visible.”

Zimbabwe People Living with HIV apex board chairperson, Evelyn Chamisa, also noted the importance of empowerment of women living with HIV considering that they constitute 60 percent of the 1,4 million people living with HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe.

She urged Global Fund coordinators to engage women living with HIV so as to have their input on HIV programmes.

“When you want to do programmes in communities, you should let the community group leaders and those involved know that you are working on such and such a project, which is being funded by the Global Fund,” she said.

Despite the Global Fund availing over $500m this year, Chamisa said they suspect the funds are being misused.

While launching the fund in January this year, the head of the Global Fund Grant Management Mark Eddington said the half-a-billion dollars would be overseen by the United Nations Development Programme in Zimbabwe.

Apart from helping in the fight against HIV/Aids, the money is also being committed to tuberculosis and malaria programmes which will be implemented by the Health and Child Care ministry.

Government has provided assurances that the money would be used judiciously.

In 2007, Zimbabwe’s central bank confiscated $7,3 million availed by the Global Fund meant for health programmes.

The central bank later returned the money, Global Fund officials confirmed.

Chamisa said at grassroots level where HIV programmes are taking place, only small amounts of money are being accessed by communities.

“To be frank with you, as women living with HIV, we have a basketful of unanswered questions. Yes, programmes are being implemented, but are the funds being shared equally?” Chamisa asked rhetorically.

“Part of the Global Fund money is used for our drugs, but a huge part of the percentage is used to pay workers.

“However, if you go to ground-level where everything is happening, you will find that people only have access to little resources.”

Chamisa attributed the problem to poor communication and feedback mechanisms pointing out that they affect the dissemination of information from service providers to beneficiaries.

Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, although the rate has been coming down in recent years.

The country’s economic woes have destroyed the public health system. Daily News