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Emmy Award Winning Actress Debra Messing Visits Zimbabwe
Date:12/10/2009

Helps PSI, DFID and USAID highlight progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS


HARARE, Zimbabwe, Dec. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Emmy Award winning actress and PSI (Population Services International) Ambassador Debra Messing is in Zimbabwe celebrating organizations, donors and individuals who have contributed to the substantial decline in HIV prevalence rates in the country. Over the past six years Zimbabwe has seen a dramatic reduction in the adult HIV prevalence rate, from approximately 25 percent in 2003 to 14 percent today. Messing expressed hope that her visit would draw attention to the ongoing need for resources and support to continue the positive trend.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20091210/DC24416)

"In a region ravaged by HIV, Zimbabwe has made extensive strides to stem the spread of this disease," said Messing. "Though I am deeply saddened to see the devastation the disease has caused, I am filled with hope when I see the incredible team of people - local leaders, NGOs, the donor community and the people of Zimbabwe themselves - who are joining together in the fight against HIV and AIDS."

Messing, along with a representative of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), is concluding a week-long trip in the country, where she is visiting HIV programs funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and run by implementing partner PSI.

Of particular note was Messing's trip to a hair salon where the hairdressers offered HIV education to customers in the shop. In Zimbabwe, women are disproportionately affected by HIV. Through a program funded by DFID and USAID, PSI is able to reach this vulnerable population by training hairdressers as peer educators, teaching them about PSI's care female condom, common misconceptions about the disease, and how to answer client questions about HIV and HIV prevention. There are now 1,500 hairdressers that are part of the peer education network in Zimbabwe and are also the subject of a short film produced by DFID, Braids not AIDS.

"Hairdressing salons across the world are known as places of straight-talking advice, and these Zimbabwean hairdressers are doing a great job at stopping the rise of HIV and AIDS," said UK Minister for International Development Mike Foster. "Thanks in part to them telling their customers about the importance of safe sex, there has been a sharp drop in the number of new HIV infections in Zimbabwe."

In addition to the salons, Messing also visited a male circumcision pilot clinic in Harare, which has already shown promising and impressive results. Male circumcision is more effective at reducing HIV infections than any vaccine currently in development. In collaboration with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and funding from DFID and USAID, PSI has trained 120 health care workers in male circumcision delivery and helped them perform the procedure on more than 2,500 men who had requested the operation. Following that visit, Messing went to PSI's New Start center for HIV testing and counseling, talking with individuals and couples who were being tested before choosing to undergo the HIV test herself.

Messing returns to the United States early next week to raise awareness about the need for additional support to further reduce HIV rates in Zimbabwe and, more specifically, Messing will urge for scale up of male circumcision; for reduction in concurrent sexual partnerships - a key driver in HIV transmission in Zimbabwe - and to encourage testing and counseling and post-test support services.

To view Braids not AIDS, cut and paste the following URL into your web browser: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Media-Room/Case-Studies/2009/WAD---Zim/

About PSI
PSI is a leading global health organization with programs targeting malaria, child survival, HIV and reproductive health. Working in partnership within the public and private sectors, and harnessing the power of the markets, PSI provides life-saving products, clinical services and behavior change communications that empower the world's most vulnerable populations to lead healthier lives. Learn more at www.psi.org

SOURCE Population Services International


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SOURCE Population Services International
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