Zimbabwe Launches a Four Year Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV Prevention Programme

On 6 March 2013, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in partnership with the United Nations and international development partners launched a four year national Integrated Support Programme (ISP) aimed at improving women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health. The programme which runs from 2012-2015 has earmarked US$95 million in the form of grants from the Governments of Britain, Ireland and Sweden.

At the launch, Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Hon. Dr. H. Madzorera said, “It is not acceptable for an HIV positive woman doing very well on Antiretroviral Treatment to die prematurely from cervical cancer. It is therefore important that STIs, HIV, cervical cancer and gender based violence are addressed together to ensure that women get the maximum benefit from our health system.”

Maternal mortality in Zimbabwe currently stands at 960/100,000 live births- among the highest levels in Africa. HIV and AIDS related conditions are the main indirect cause of maternal mortality, contributing up to 25% of all maternal deaths – including contributing to the high level of cervical cancer.  Unmet needs for family planning, especially among adolescents, and gender based violence have also contributed to the unacceptable state of sexual reproductive health in Zimbabwe.

As such, to address the aforementioned intertwined challenges, the ISP addresses four priority areas in an integrated approach, these are - family planning, cervical cancer, gender based violence and HIV prevention. In line with the forgoing, UNFPA Representative, Dr Basile O Tambashe said, “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health is critical for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals thereby to sustainable national development.”

In addition to integrating sexual and reproductive health services, the ISP brings together different Government Ministries and parastatals, UN entities, International Development Partners, Non-Government Organizations, the Private Sector and the Media. “It gives me a great pleasure to see such a united front that is aiming at improving the health of Zimbabwe’s poor and vulnerable populations, with primary focus on women”, said the Head of UKAid in Zimbabwe, Ms Jane Rintoul in a statement she delivered on behalf of the funding partners.

The ISP, by the end of 2015, will deliver results, which include preventing 800,000 unintended pregnancies, distribute 64 million male and female condoms, avert 63,000 new HIV infection through providing male circumcision services and prevention of transmission from mother to child, provide HIV testing and counseling services to 400,000 people, cervical cancer screening services to 290,000 women and rehabilitation services to 7,000 survivors of sexual assault and rape.

Hundreds of people who attended the launch also had an opportunity to get firsthand information on reproductive and sexual health issues and services from an information bazar mounted by health affiliated civil society organizations and Wilkins Hospital.