Catherine Murombedzi Post Correspondent
MANY districts marked World Aids Day in Zimbabwe on 1 December. Rujeko Stadium in Glendale, Mashonaland Central was a hive of activity on Saturday, December 1 where the national event was observed.
Zimbabwe joined the global village to mark the 30th anniversary of the World AIDS Day with the theme: ‘Know your status.’
Mashonaland Central has the highest prevalence rate of child marriages at over 50 percent. This exposes the girls to sexually transmitted infections, HIV included.
The province has mining activities and farming as the main occupation. Small artisenal miners are scattered in the province with Shamva and Mazoe with the bulk of artisenal miners.
The guest of honour was the First Lady, Mai Auxillia Mnangagwa who affirmed the need to know one’ human immuno virus (HIV) status noting the close relationship between HIV and tuberculosis (TB) as a cause of concern.
Knowing one’s HIV status, and if found HIV positive is the gateway to accessing anti retroviral therapy. (ART)
“. . .There are still people, who on account of fear or stigma are still avoiding HIV testing and therefore cannot access anti-retroviral therapy. One of the major drawbacks to our national response to HIV and AIDS has been widespread stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV on account of their status. . . we need to strengthen programmes focusing on changing people’s attitudes … as a building block towards everyone to know and appreciate their status. Let me emphasize that we all have a status, whether positive or negative. For those who are negative, knowing one’s status has benefits of reinforcing positive behaviour change and quitting risky sexual behaviour,” said Mai Mnangagwa.
“As we commemorate the World AIDS Day, we need to think about ways in which we can promote uptake of testing for HIV and screening for other sexually transmitted infections, cancers and tuberculosis. We need to vigorously promote HIV testing particularly among pregnant women, youths, adolescent girls and young women, sex workers, and other hard to reach key populations. . .As a mother I cannot bring myself to accept that a child can be born with HIV just because a mother refused or did not get an opportunity to get tested for HIV. . .No child ever again should be born with HIV. That means we will have to take such campaigns seriously…”
Mashonaland Central has a population of 1 139 940 of which 95 458 are adults. Of these 101 147 are on ART with 5 446 being children.
The province has eight districts.
Statistics from the National AIDS Council, (NAC) show Mazoe and Mount Darwin have the largest number of people living with HIV with a prevalence rate of 11.5 percent.
Mai Mnangagwa called on authorities to be vigilant on unfounded claims by faith leaders.
“Let me stress that ARVs are the only known method for reversing AIDS and suppressing viral load. As such, I would like to call on health and drug watchdog institutions to remain vigilant against any people who make unscientific claims about any herbal or spiritual discoveries of AIDS treatment.
With HIV testing as the entry point to regaining health for those infected with the virus, everyone needs to know his/her HIV status,’’ she said.