via Over 90% of population avoid HIV testing – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 30, 2015
There is need for aggressive testing for HIV and Aids of over 90% of the population by 2020 if Zimbabwe is serious about reversing the adverse effects of the scourge which has seen over 1,5 million people in the country being infected, a senior Health ministry official has said.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Speaking during a forum on HIV funding organised by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the director of the Aids and TB unit in the Ministry of Health Owen Mugurungi said the majority of the population was not aware of their HIV status, hindering efforts to fight the pandemic.
“People who know their status are less likely to transmit HIV and our focus should, therefore, remain on getting as many people as possible to be tested,” he said.
However, barriers like stigma continue to slow down progress with only 30% of young people aware of their status.
“HIV testing and counselling (HTC) remains critical and cost effective and a person who has been tested and initiated on ART [anti-retroviral treatment} is less likely to pass on the virus to an uninfected partner,” Mugurungi said.
He also said the situation was being worsened by the fact that certain key populations like sex workers and men who have sex with men were not being covered.
“If we do continue to leave out these key populations they shall be our source of problems,” he said.
The director of the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV and Aids (ZNNP+)Mucha Makamuri said it was prudent for stakeholders to advocate for policies that encouraged HTC and creation of a stigma-free environment.
“Stigma is still rife at health facilities and there is need to revise the curriculum for clinicians and include stigma as a subject,” Makamuri said.
She also said spiritual interventions remained another big barrier to being tested as many people were being misled by some dubious prophets and religious leaders.
Mugurungi said testing for HIV would remain voluntary as this had proved effective.
“Testing will remain voluntary and we will not trample on anyone’s rights,” he said.
Meanwhile, a pilot project for self-testing of HIV will soon be rolled out in a few districts once a few logistical issues have been cleared. The intervention has been met with mixed reactions with many expressing concern at the absence of counselling when one is self-testing.
“We will look into such issues as counselling and be able to come up with a solution that will not compromise the process,” said Mugurungi.