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Multiple community programmes simultaneously fight HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2007
Cabby Chinamasa,a 23-year-old gym teacher and volunteer contributing to the success of the ‘Kicking AIDS Out Through Sport’ programme in Zimbabwe, where HIV rates have declined in recent years.

By Tsitsi Singizi

MUTARE, Zimbabwe, 6 November 2007 – Cabby Chinamasa has just spent half his day teaching gym to energetic seventh graders, but the 23-year-old gymnastics teacher is not resting yet. His next assignment is even more ambitious: He is working as a youth volunteer on the UNICEF-supported programme, ‘Kicking AIDS Out Through Sport’.

“We’re building healthy bodies and confidence and, most importantly, raising HIV awareness through this programme,” said Mr. Chinamasa.

Across Zimbabwe, community programmes such as the one that Mr. Chinamasa leads are thriving.

Against a backdrop of a shrinking economy, rising unemployment and an orphan crisis, Zimbabwean youth are defying bitter odds. Through community-based programmes of sport and peer education, they are accessing critical life skills and HIV-prevention information.

Programmes working together

In partnership with donor countries and government ministries, UNICEF is supporting many programmes in Zimbabwe, including HIV-education training for teachers, and girls’ empowerment movements in rural schools.

The ‘Kicking AIDS Out Through Sport’ programme is supported by UNICEF in partnership with UNICEF Norway, the Norwegian Olympic Committee and Zimbabwe’s Sport and Recreational Commission.

Marshall (left), 15, is a volunteer for the ‘Young People, We Care’ initiative, which mentors at-risk youths and children who have been orphaned by AIDS.

Another programme, ‘Young People, We Care’, is an innovative youth-mentoring project supported by the European Commission’s Office for Humanitarian Affairs that serves the dual role of providing care in local communities and reducing risky behaviour among youths.

‘Great news for Zimbabweans’

A study released last week said that Zimbabwe’s HIV rate continues to drop, giving it one of the most significant declines of any country in the world.

The biggest fall in HIV prevalence among pregnant women was reported in the 15-to-24 age group, showing a drop from 20.8 percent to 13.1 percent between 2002 and 2006.

“This is great news for Zimbabweans, and great news for all the organizations which have been working so tirelessly on HIV prevention,” said UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Festo Kavishe. “However, there remains an urgent need to boost prevention and treatment programmes in Zimbabwe.”

The goal of universal access

For varied reasons, many Zimbabweans are not receiving the care and education they need. Without additional funds, universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment will not be attained.

Moreover, while there has been an increase in services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, much more needs to be done to make these programmes available to women throughout the country.

“Zimbabweans have shown that they have the determination and the education to defeat HIV/AIDS,” said the Chief of the HIV/AIDS programme for UNICEF Harare, Nicolette Moodie. “However, this is not the moment for complacency. Rather, we must take advantage of this positive action by youth and invest even greater energy and resources to ensure this current positive trend is sustained.”




November 2007:
UNICEF's James Elder tells the story of Marshall, a volunteer working with Young People, We Care in Zimbabwe.
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