Source: HIV a security threat — Chiwenga | The Herald June 7, 2016
Leonard Ncube Bulawayo Bureau
THE Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Dr Constantine Chiwenga, yesterday said the HIV and Aids pandemic remains a security threat in Sub-Saharan Africa as uniformed forces are among the worst affected.
Speaking at the on-going 4th annual Zimbabwe Uniformed Forces Health Services Conference here, Dr Chiwenga called for sustained financial, political and scientific commitment by governments to fight the epidemic.
Dr Chiwenga, who was accompanied by his wife Marry, said political instability may be exacerbated by growing frustration with the governments’ inability to stop or slow down the epidemic or to respond effectively to the needs created by it.
“HIV and Aids remain a threat to the uniformed forces’ organisational effectiveness in Sub-Saharan Africa as it remains attributable to capacity deficits and personnel attrition, absenteeism, diminishing morale, internal dislocations and spiralling health costs among others,” he said.
“The scourge touches all aspects of lives and has created millions of orphans and decimated many people in the productive age group and continues to have a negative demographic, social and economic impact as parents and workers succumb to HIV-related diseases.”
He said the uniformed forces have not been spared.
Dr Chiwenga said the region still bears the highest burden of HIV and Aids compared to other regions of the world with millions of people living with the disease.
He said the uniformed forces are affected the same way families, businesses and the society have been affected, although he didn’t give statistics.
“Increased poverty and social inequality may encourage conflict and crime. How these critical issues are handled by uniformed forces’ commanders will inspire confidence in their leadership,” Dr Chiwenga said.
He said the biggest challenge, both in the uniformed forces and society at large, was denial but added that hope to end the HIV and Aids scourge is not lost while prevention remains the most effective approach.
The ZDF commander said it was critical to understand psycho-social aspects of the disease so as to fight stigma and discrimination.
Dr Chiwenga said unformed forces face challenges of scaling up further interventions while lack of research and integrated service delivery among others are the other negatives.
Local solutions are crucial, he said.
Representatives of uniformed forces from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia are attending the conference which will end on Thursday. It is being held under the theme: “Psycho-social impact of HIV and Aids on national security: Strengthening synergies locally and beyond.”
Representatives from the Zimbabwe National Army, Air Force of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care and National Aids Council are also attending the conference.