Despite restricted movement of people due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, 81 million male and female condoms were distributed in Zimbabwe last year alone.
AIDS and TB Unit Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Owen Mugurungi said strategies devised by government to ensure that citizens continue to access HIV preventative services paid off as the uptake of condoms was higher than previous years.
“A total of 79 604 560 male condoms were distributed and 1 810 139 female condoms were distributed in 2020 in both the public health sector and social sectors. Covid-19 did affect the different HIV programmes because of the mitigation guidelines that were put in place that were necessary to contain the Covid-19,” said Dr Mugurungi.
“Despite the lockdown, there were strategies that were developed by the MoHCC to ensure that members of the public were still able to access the HIV prevention services in the context of the epidemic,” he said.
In particular, Dr Mugurungi says the public sector condoms were distributed together with food during distribution programmes.
“We also continue to work with the commercial market so that we find ways of supporting them so that condom brands such as Carex, Durex and many more are available for those sections of our community that can afford them.
“We have also seen the Covid-19 bringing in opportunities to enhance promotion of new HIV prevention options such as HIV self-testing. People can now be able to test for HIV in the comfort of their homes,” said Dr Mugurungi.
He added that the condom distribution programme has also afforded communities with an opportunity to hear more about sexual and reproductive health as well as HIV awareness through the various ”Condomise” campaigns that have been held over the years.
He said that of all HIV preventive strategies, condoms remain relevant and practical for various population groups, including sexually active young people, pregnant and lactating women, women experiencing complications with hormonal methods of family planning, and other population groups involved in high-risk sex, such as sex workers.
Based on the results of the latest Zimbabwe Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (Zimphia2020), 86,8 percent of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe now know their status, representing 10 percent increase from 76,8 percent recorded in the previous survey in 2015.
Furthermore, 97 percent of people living with HIV are now on lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is a remarkable improvement from the previous 88,4 recorded in the last Zimphia. For those on antiretroviral therapy, 90,3 percent of them have achieved viral load suppression, compared to 85,3 percent in the previous survey.
Zimbabwe ranks number five in Africa in terms of high HIV prevalence at 12,9 percent and like many countries based on prevailing trends may fail to meet the set 2030 global target.