AFRICA should work towards producing a viable African Traditional Medicines pharmaceutical industry riding on its rich knowledge and vast natural resources while avoiding complacency in the fight against HIV, President Mnangagwa has said.
He said deliberate and concrete action plans based on science are essential in the fight against HIV as conferences, meetings and workshops alone are inadequate to beat back the pandemic.
Speaking at the official opening of the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in Harare yesterday, President Mnangagwa said the theme of the gathering, “AIDS Is Not Over Address Inequalities, Accelerate Inclusion and innovation”, is a befitting reminder of the need to remain focused and avoid complacency.
His Mozambican counterpart, President Filipe Nyusi, was in attendance as Zimbabwe hosted ICASA delegations drawn from across the globe.
The conference, which has drawn more than 8 000 delegates, began yesterday and ends on Saturday.
In his speech, President Mnangagwa challenged Africa to keep its eyes on the ball and consolidate the milestones achieved over the years.
“We should never relax; AIDS is not over. The pandemic remains one of the salient threats to sustainable socio-economic development.
“As a continent, we must harness our rich and diverse flora and fauna endowment through the deployment of science, technology and innovation, to establish a vibrant African Traditional Medicines pharmaceutical industry.
“We must, as Africa, never shy away from building on our rich African knowledge systems and God-given resources to have scientifically viable medical products and solutions for our communities. Through such an approach, we should reverse the high disease burden and related mortality on our continent,” he said.
In line with national development philosophy, “Nyika inovakwa, inotongwa, igonamatigwa nevene vayo/Ilizwe lakhiwa libuswe, likhulekelwe ngabanikazi balo’, President Mnangagwa said Africans must build their respective countries and proffer the solutions needed to address challenges confronting them.
He said the recent Covid-19 pandemic and on-going threats of Ebola as well as other tropical diseases have taught Africa the need for integration of these and other responses, underpinned by the principle of Universal Health Coverage.
“Others from elsewhere should come to help and complement us, based on our own developmental priorities. Hence, the mantra ‘African solutions for African problems’ must transcend to the manner we address epidemics and other existential threats of our times,” President Mnangagwa said.
“Intra-Africa collaboration must be deepened and partnerships with the private sector and development partners, harnessed to leap forward our response.”
The President said given the growing incidences of epidemics and conflicts, coupled with the negative impact of climate change, the conference is most opportune as it allows Africa to reflect on its ongoing responses to HIV/AIDS at both the continental and global levels.
“Equally, there is a need to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic holistically, including through addressing matters to do with guaranteeing food security and nutrition of our communities beginning at the household level.
“Let us, therefore, implement robust and responsive sustainable development programmes and projects to lift more of our people out of poverty and eradicate inequalities that may be triggers to new HIV infections, especially among most at-risk groups,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said encouraging early testing and promoting treatment adherence, as well as fighting stigma and discrimination remain key aspects to reversing silence and untreated infections.
He said it was also imperative to sustain focus on social and cultural practices that increase risk and exposure of women and children to HIV.
“Our success in ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 is imminent. It is encouraging that the Society for AIDS in Africa has responded to the urgent realities of the time and ever-changing health environment.
“I, therefore, commend you for expanding the scope of the conference to include discussions on key thematic areas such as pathways for Leadership in HIV and AIDS initiatives; building resilience and sustainable HIV prevention programming, along with other emergencies and epidemics,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said while the 2022 report by the United Nations AIDS reflects that AIDS continues to claim lives, it was, however, commendable that Africa has made progress and positive outcomes through robust interventions which are infusing the hope that AIDS can indeed be eliminated.
“Many countries in Africa, including Zimbabwe, have already achieved the 95-95-95 fast track targets. This is applauded, congratulations. In the case of Zimbabwe, between 2018 and 2022, our country managed to reduce new HIV infections as well as AIDS-related deaths.
“We are committed to addressing the gaps and inequalities that exist in access to HIV services to sustain this progress and push-back the HIV frontiers, to end AIDS by 2030. It is also critically important to ensure that both girls and boys as well as young women have unfettered and equal access to HIV services,” President Mnangagwa said.
He reiterated that Zimbabwe is open for business and ready to welcome investments, joint ventures, partnerships and innovations.