“We can’t afford to give up the fight against AIDS"
Forty-one-year-old Kuda Madzeke has been SolidarMed Country Director in Zimbabwe since October 2021 and is responsible for the implementation of all projects in that country. He sat down with us to talk about what has to be done in the fight against AIDS and about his vision for SolidarMed.
Kuda, you’ve been working at NGOs in the field of health for a total of 18 years. What made you move to SolidarMed?
I was impressed by SolidarMed’s approach to working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners. SolidarMed passes on knowledge and insights from its own projects in a targeted way and encourages partners to pursue and further develop successful approaches. In this way, a project can have an impact well beyond individual regions. I was also interested in SolidarMed’s desire to grow further within Zimbabwe. I supported a similar growth process at Zimbabwean NGO Africaid Zvandiri and am keen to bring this experience to the table.
Your previous work has been almost exclusively in the field of HIV/AIDS. Is this a topic that is particularly close to your heart?
Basically I’m interested in health as a whole, which is why after my degree in psychology and demography, I went on to do a PhD in health studies. But HIV/AIDS, especially in young people, is a topic that I care deeply about. There is still a huge need for resources to tackle the epidemic at all levels: from preventing infection and taking medication correctly to treating severe cases. But I’m also worried when I look to the future.
Why is that?
I’m noticing that donors’ interest in the subject of HIV is waning and that a sought of funding fatigue is setting in. The fight against AIDS has already been going on for decades and we have achieved a great deal. But we can’t afford to give up now. Many people who were infected by their mothers as babies are now reaching an age when they want to start their own families. We need to make sure they don’t pass it on to their offspring. And we urgently need to trace people who are HIV positive but who are not yet taking any medication. If we give up now, all the successes we’ve achieved thus far will be wiped out.
What specifically needs to happen?
On the one hand, people need to take more interest in HIV/AIDS again, particularly our donors. On the other, we need to test new ways of tracing people with HIV and educating them. Digital media and platforms offer opportunities here. I co-developed such a platform when I worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The aim was for young people with HIV to be able to share their experiences with each other and to campaign at national level for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
«If we give up now, all the progress we’ve made so far will be wiped out.»
Kuda Madzeke – Country Director, Zimbabwe
SolidarMed is also increasingly deploying these types of eHealth methods in Zimbabwe, e.g. sending test results by mobile phone to save people the long journey to a health centre. Is eHealth a silver bullet, so to speak?
It definitely has huge potential. But we mustn’t forget that not everyone has internet access. In the UNDP project I just referred to, we saw that while some young people had a mobile phone, it didn’t necessarily have internet access. Others didn’t even have one. We therefore set up groups in which at least one person had reliable internet access, or we provided it. This person then informed the others and together they all had access to the digital networks.
What’s your vision for SolidarMed in Zimbabwe?
I’m keen to support SolidarMed to continue to act as a mediator between various healthcare actors. I also see a lot of potential in coordinating projects even more closely with other organisations. For instance, in the area of HIV, SolidarMed could let other organisations provide basic primary healthcare to patients and focus instead on treating patients with drug resistance. Partnerships like these would help counter the fatigue I talked about and allow us to secure additional donors.
What do you do to switch off from work and relax?
I’m an outdoorsy person. I love to travel and discover other cultures. I’m also really looking forward to going to Switzerland for the first time in May and meeting the team in Lucerne!
SolidarMed in Zimbabwe
SolidarMed is committed to the health of newborns, mothers and adolescents. We support the authorities with various initiatives to improve primary health care in Masvingo province. Together with local partners, we develop promising eHealth projects.