Major HIV Assessment Launches in Zimbabwe

On September 18th, the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA) was formally launched in Harare by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care, the National AIDS Council, the Ambassador of the Government of the United States of America, and representatives of PEPFAR, CDC, ICAP at Columbia University, and other project partners.

This major initiative will describe the current status of the HIV epidemic in Zimbabwe, with survey teams set to visit approximately 15,000 randomly selected households in order to estimate national HIV incidence, prevalence, and viral load suppression among adults and children. The results of the ZIMPHIA survey will help guide policy and set funding priorities in Zimbabwe in the years to come.

ZIMPHIA teams will offer free and voluntary HIV, CD4, viral load, and syphilis testing to approximately 30,000 adults and children. ZIMPHIA participants will be provided with their HIV test results and post-test counseling, and anyone who tests HIV-positive will be referred to the nearest health facility for care.

As high participation rates are essential, ZIMPHIA project partners are dedicating significant efforts to sensitize communities around Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Health and partners are working with traditional leaders, religious leaders, and local organizations to engage the community through educational brochures, advertising, radio spots, and even a song specially produced in collaboration with local Zimbabwean artists: Knock, Knock, Knock.

To prepare local teams to carry out the large-scale, very technical survey and to conduct the various blood tests, ICAP led the training of over 100 nurses, 15 medical laboratory scientists, and 40 interviewers. The ZIMPHIA team is also working with 12 district-level laboratories to ensure the medical tests are conducted correctly.

Over the past 30 years, Zimbabwe has made important strides in responding to the HIV epidemic. Through targeted HIV prevention efforts from voluntary medical male circumcision to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Zimbabwe has lowered its national HIV prevalence rate from 30 percent to less than 15 percent.

“Zimbabwe is at a turning point where an AIDS-free generation and an end to AIDS deaths is not only possible, but is in sight,” said Robert Scott, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe. “Not only will ZIMPHIA advance HIV insights, programming and policy in Zimbabwe, it will also serve as a template and example for other African countries that will conduct similar surveys in the coming years.”

ZIMPHIA is a Ministry of Health and Child Care initiative being implemented in partnership with National AIDS Council, ZIMSTAT, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with support from the United States President’s Emergency Plan forAIDS Relief (PEPFAR). ICAP at Columbia University is the implementing agency for ZIMPHIA. Other ZIMPHIA partners include: Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI), Lancet Laboratories, and Westat.