Immediate Release: 01 December 2020
Issued by Sunga Mzeche– HOCIC Zimbabwe Country Director
Every year from the 25th of November to the 10th of December we commemorate 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence(GBV). This year the campaign is taking place under the Global theme Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect! And on the 1st of December every year the world commemorates World AIDS Day(WAD). People around the world unite to show support for people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS.
This year, 2020 both #WAD and the 16 Days Campaign are being commemorated when the world’s attention is mainly focused on the COVID19 Pandemic. The impact of the crisis on health, resulting in shortages of Anti Retro Viral (ARVS) Drugs and also decreased access to GBV services is reversing the gains made towards achieving an AIDS free world. By the time a woman or girl who has been raped gets access to PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), especially in rural areas, it might be too late to save her from HIV infections.
As duty bearers we need to #RESPOND promptly by making sure that GBV medication and services are available, accessible and affordable to any woman or a girl despite their location or social status, in order to save lives.
During COVID 19 most #FUNDS are being channeled towards fighting the pandemic at the expense of GBV aswell as HIV and AIDS programming. There has been an increase in the number of GBV cases as women and girls were locked down with their perpetrators exposing them to more abuse.
When schools started reopening as from September, it was noted that there was an increase in the number of pregnant teenage girls in Zimbabwe as a whole, pointing to the fact that child sexual abuse during the lockdown period was high. The Zimbabwe Daily News of 17 September 2020 reported that according to statistics from Mpilo Central hospital, which is one of the major health institutions in Zimbabwe, children aged 12 to 16 years now account 30% of deliveries yet a year ago the figure was 5 to 10% teenage pregnancies. The fact that these girls are pregnant also points to the fact that there was unprotected sex exposing them to HIV infection. It is against this background that we appeal to donors to continue funding GBV and HIV and AIDS programs even during the COVID19 Pandemic crisis.
There is no doubt that HIV/AIDS and GBV are intertwined. Unequal power relations between men and women result in GBV which exposes a woman to HIV infection whereas on the other hand HIV infection can expose the woman to GBV as the partner may blame her for bringing the disease into the home. Women have high health seeking behaviours compared to men and it is during Ante Natal Clinic (ANC) visits that most find out about their HIV status and breaking the news to their partners often results in GBV.
To #PREVENT GBV and HIV/AIDS there is need to continue raising awareness to communities we work in and live in. We need to leverage on the use of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) to reach out to as many people as possible especially the young people to prevent HIV infection. The media has been awash with images and videos of young people engaged in risky sexual practices, which exposes them to HIV infection. There is need to emphasize on prevention as it is less costly in the long run, and off course, prevention has always been better than cure as the old adage goes. The former minister of health Dr. David Parirenyatwa always emphasised on Prevention, Prevention, Prevention. This is one of his quotes from 2018 during the launch of the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Strategy for the period 2018-2020
i quote, “This is an add-on to our bag of tools and approaches for HIV prevention that we had in the past and I am confident you all know that I have always said that the best strategy in our efforts to fight AIDS in this country is Prevention, Prevention and Prevention,” end of quote.
GBV information is not easily available in Zimbabwe. There is need to #COLLECT data with regards to statistics on GBV in Zimbabwe and collect the stories from the survivors to enhance evidence-based programming. This year’s World Health Organisation (2020) theme for #WAD, Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility resonates well with taking collective action in the fight against COVID, HIV/AIDS and GBV. As HOCIC we stand in solidarity with all who have been infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and the survivors of GBV. We also remember those who have lost their lives to the deadly COVID pandemic, to AIDS and also GBV. ###