Zimbabwe: ‘Zvitambo’ project to protect unborn babies from HIV/Aids

In Zimbabwe’s dominant ethnic language, Shona, the word Zvitambo means “priceless” or “precious”.

Such is the value of a fledgling but little known HIV/Aids intervention project called Zvitambo, an acronym for Zimbabwe Vitamin A for Mothers and Babies. The programme which entails the provision of HIV/Aids counselling and medicinal requirements that may hinder the transmission of the deadly HIV virus from mothers to babies at birth and in infancy, has attracted the participation of the donor community, the church and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs).

According to Vuyelwa Chitimbire, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals, Zvitambo’s prime functions are based on the realisation that most social woes are direct products of the Aids scourge.

“Most of Zimbabwe’s problems today are a consequence of HIV/Aids....some (problems) are beyond our control, but there are those we can tackle when we reach a meeting point of needs and care,” Chitimbire told a Zvitambo meeting last week.

To date, the Zvitambo project is at work at 10 hospitals across the country where the organisation provides technical support for, and conducts operational and clinical research relevant to women and children who are infected with the HIV virus which causes Aids.

Key to the process is testing of pregnant women’s blood status to check for the infection of HIV, the counselling and education on infant care as well as the provision of the drugs Nevirapine prophylaxis and Cotrimoxazole prophylaxis for HIV positive women and their infants. Nevirapine which has been donated to the Zimbabwean government, according to health experts, is an antiretroviral drug which can reduce the chances of a mother transmitting HIV to her child by half while Cotrimoxazole is an antibiotic which performs the same function.

Last Monday, the Zvitambo project received a major boost when the Canadian International Development Agency contributed over 19 billion Zim dollars to its coffers.

Canadian High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, John Schram said: “Zvitambo is a pioneer in an exercise that is extraordinarily important in Southern Africa as a whole. However, money is not all that matters, the solution is in partnership between the government, NGOs, hospitals and the church.

“It is also important to sustain our efforts in mitigating the impact of Aids through patience, determination and unwavering commitment.”

The $19 billion, Schram said, will be channelled to the Zimbabwe’s programme for the Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PPTCT).

Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a book which highlights challenges and triumphs of Zimbabweans in the face of the Aids pandemic.

The 60-page book entitled Love and Life: The stories of Loss and Hope In Zimbabwe, portrays the stark realities of the Aids scourge in pictures and writing.

UNDP’s resident representative to Zimbabwe, Jose Victor Angelo, said though the contents of the book may show the challenges that have dawned on Zimbabweans, there was still a window of hope.

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