Feature story

Investing into the future- Ending AIDS through eliminating new HIV infections among children in Zimbabwe

03 August 2012

Mr and Mrs Chikonyora with their twins who have both tested negative for HIV.
Credit: UNAIDS

Madziva- Anoziva and Anotida Chikonyora are one-year old identical twins, born to a discordant couple (in which one person is HIV positive and the other is not) in Centenary, about 120 kilometres north of the capital of Harare. Smiling in the comforting hands of their parents, the twins have both tested negative for HIV - thanks to the government supported elimination of new HIV infections among children.

“We are grateful for the support that our community is receiving to prevent mother-to-child transmission. I also believe people should not be made dependent on long-term donations and subsistence, they should be empowered to establish their own projects,” said Innocent Chikonyora the father of the twins.

Elizabeth Tafira a friend of the Chikonyora family has a similar story. Their friendship dates back to the early 1990s when she was diagnosed with HIV and joined a support group for people living with HIV. According to Tafira much has changed since those days.

She said, “In the 1990s when I discovered my status there was little hope, treatment was very inaccessible, there was a lot of stigma and discrimination and delivering a baby was not an option for me.” She reckons lack of information as well as professional and community support stops women living with HIV from accessing services. “I was a little hesitant in the past to consider the options that became available for delivering babies without transmitting HIV,” confessed Elizabeth.

Elizabeth recently had a baby girl, Anashe, and is anxiously waiting for the results of the HIV test for her child. She enrolled in the government’s prevention of mother- to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme and is confident that the test will be negative and after the results she intends to visit the nearby health institution to speak to the some of medical staff who advised her against having a baby. “I want to show them that an HIV positive women can indeed have HIV negative babies.”

Zimbabwe’s government through the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MoHCW) and the National AIDS Council (NAC) is working with various partners at the community level to provide a broad range of HIV services.

The Zimbabwe National AIDS Strategic Plan II (2011-2015) prioritises PMTCT and aims to reduce the rate of mother to child transmission from 14% in 2010 to 7% in 2013 and less than 5% by 2015.

Chief Chiveso of Mashonaland Central Province in Zimbabwe says, despite the encouraging results, government authorities, communities and development partners should accelerate their efforts to reach more mothers with quality services.

“My people are no longer afraid of being tested. What we do not yet have are adequate services for HIV testing and counselling, CD4 count, TB screening and testing,” highlighted Chief Chiveso.

Information, education and behaviour change communication are also key elements of this effort, stressed the chief who added, “Home deliveries remain a challenge in addressing new infections in children.”