Rise in HIV infections worrying


HARARE – We thought as a country we had buried the HIV/Aids ghost which at one time saw Zimbabwe recording 2 000 deaths a week.

But latest figures released by the National Aids Council (Nac) showing a rise in the HIV prevalence rate are disturbing.

Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence rate has increased in the last four years to 15 percent from 14, 26 percent in 2011.

This is frightening because the financial and emotional investment made into fighting the devastating virus which causes Aids could come to naught after all.

There are genuine fears that if there is no change of behaviour by the highly active age groups of between 16-38 years, which previously were ravaged by Aids, Zimbabwe could plunge back to dark days of  the 90s.

According to statistics from National Aids Council (Nac), the total number of people infected by the virus has increased by 0, 74 percent.

At least 1, 2 million Zimbabweans are living with HIV, but the figures could be higher as most men are shunning testing and counselling centres.

Since unemployment and economic hardships are some of the key drivers of the scourge, then gains made since 2001, when the country battled to reduce the prevalence rate from 21,5 percent to 13 percent, could be reversed.

According to Nac, an estimated 657 000 are on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) out of the estimated 1,2 million affected people.

The pandemic has devastated southern parts of the country, pointedly Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.

Matabeleland South and North have 21 percent, Bulawayo 19 percent, Harare 13 percent while Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Masvingo have 14 percent prevalence rate each.

There is need for all Zimbabweans, starting from an individual level to government, to hammer home the importance of healthy living.

The sexual decadence, triggering a sharp rise in sexual transmission infections, pits a damper of male circumcision and voluntary and counseling efforts which are aimed at bolstering the fight against HIV/Aids.

More worrying is the fatal approach which appears to have been taken by youths who are resorting to survival through prostitution at tertiary institutions.

Their poor plight should not be a driver for risky sexual behaviour.

As the economy shows serious signs of flagging, we should be asking ourselves: “Do we throw away the baby with bath water or salvage what we have fought for so far?”

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