A top U.S. embassy official has paid tribute to HIFA saying the arts showcase is symbolic of the developed nation’s desire to see a healthy Zimbabwe.
The Charge’ d’ Affaires Mission in Zimbabwe, Jennifer Savage, made the remarks when addressing a reception to mark U.S. participation at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA 2018).
For the third year running, the U.S. Embassy sponsored the First Street Stage at HIFA, with the support of the Ministry of Health and Child Care and partners of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Other beneficiaries of the program include ZimHISP, Mavambo Orphan Care, PSMAS and the Zimbabwe Association of Church related Hospitals. A total of nine related organisations exhibited and carried out voluntary work that included HIV testing, counselling, male circumcision referrals and condom distribution during the entirety of the festival.
“I want to thank the messengers who ride the bikes to bring samples into the laboratory; the doctors and nurses who do the hard work every day, the clerks in the clinics; and all the workers who save lives every day with every one of the actions. We support the First Street Stage at HIFA because it’s an excellent opportunity to expand our outreach, to provide critical information and services to the general public on HIV/AIDs prevention, treatment and other community services,” Savage said.
Crowds thronged the First Street Stage with dance and musical entertainment provided by Jibilika Dance Trust, Prince Edward Jazz Band, Jesa Band and the visiting Slavic Soul Party! (SSP!) collaborating with the Zimbabwe College of Music. The New York based brass band later performed in the evening at the Main Stage, thrilling audiences with its enthralling high tempo brass music and renditions of popular African beats.
PEPFAR Communications Coordinator, Gay Nyakwende, said they were impressed by the participation of especially the young people at the First Street Stage and their partners confirmed a lot of people were asking for free HIV testing services, which were available on site.
“On average we are receiving about 200 people a day, but we will have to go back and collate the statistics at the end of the program to establish how many people were attended to during HIFA,” she said.
Florence Saburi, Project Coordinator for Health Information Training and Research Advancement Center (Hitrac) said volumes were peaking with members of the public learning about her organization’s work including how best the health sector can take advantage of the information and communication technologies in the health sector.
“Most people are asking about issues to do with confidentiality of their information especially when it comes to sensitive information collected using the electronic health record. They are afraid that almost everybody will know their HIV status or if they have sexually transmitted diseases,” she said.
Other exhibitors noted an interest in free services available including empowerment initiatives conducted by the PEPFAR partners. “They (people) are asking about what we offer under the education assistance package and the toolkit that we are using to give information about sexual and reproductive health,” said Laura Nyatanga, Project Manager at Mavambo Orphan Care Trust.
This year PEPFAR has committed $150 million in aid to Zimbabwe and will, for the first time, fund cervical cancer screening. Since 2004, PEPFAR has provided over $1 billion through USAID and CDC.
“Zimbabwe has almost reached epidemic control and we want to keep the momentum going. This is in line with HIFA’s theme this year, ‘We Count,’ because everyone counts in addressing HIV/AIDS issues in Zimbabwe,” said Savage.