HARARE - The government of Zimbabwe is intensifying its efforts to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Officials are collecting data from about 15,000 randomly selected households to measure the burden of HIV across the African country and the impact of HIV prevention, care and treatment services.
The Ministry of Health Friday launched the program in Bulawayo, the country's second largest city. The survey is known as the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment, or ZIMPHIA, for short.
The government says the results will serve as a baseline to measure progress toward the United Nations' treatment targets designed to end the AIDS epidemic. Officials also say the findings will help to focus programs and resources toward populations at greatest risk for HIV and in most need of services.
"Both results [from the survey] - HIV negative and positive - are linked to prevention initiatives or care treatment and support," said Dr. Mutsa Mhangara, one of the people heading up the program. "ZIMPHIA also aims to measure the population access to HIV services like health facilities...These are some of the measures which will be measured to say to what extent our population is getting these services."
ZIMPHIA is part of an initiative being funded by the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and supported by PEPFAR, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Dr. Beth Tippett Barr, the CDC's country director in Zimbabwe says so far, the survey is going well.
"It has been implemented in three districts. It will be interesting to see in Bulawayo," said Barr. "This is the first time that it is coming to an urban environment. In some ways, it might be easier because people are close together; in some ways it might turn to be harder as people are busy trying in all sorts of directions trying to have things done. So we will see."
The survey was formally launched in Harare in September. Zimbabwe is one of the countries hard hit by HIV, although the infection rate has been falling, largely due to financial and technical support from Western countries.
The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, estimates that Zimbabwe has an HIV adult prevalence of 15 percent. It says about 1.6 million there are living with the AIDS virus.