Govt mulls door-to-door HIV testing

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HARARE – Government is adamant that it wants to introduce voluntary door-to-door HIV testing arguing it is the cornerstone to prevention.

David Parirenyatwa, Health and Child Care minister,  says the country cannot forgo the importance of a population which knows its status as it is the only way to win the battle against HIV.

“Some countries have embarked on a door-to-door campaign and as a country, this is a worthwhile direction we may have to take at some point,” Parirenyatwa said in a speech read on his behalf during World Aids Day commemorations held in Chivhu on Sunday.

“Resources permitting, it is our intention to run HIV counselling, testing and male circumcision campaigns in all provinces at the same time.

“People can only access treatment when they know their status. HIV counselling and testing therefore is a cornerstone of the prevention and treatment services and as such we continue scaling up.”

Though many people are now visiting HIV testing centres, health experts say thousands of people are still afraid of knowing their status.

Henry Madzorera, the previous Health minister, was the first to announce government’s desire for a door-to-door campaign last year.

Mixed feelings were roused by the announcement.

Some HIV specialists argued that confidentiality, disclosure and informed consent will present major challenges to the campaign while activists feel this is not a priority for a country that has a huge backlog of people in urgent need of treatment.

Pilot studies of the campaign done in Bushenyi District, in western Uganda, between January 2005 and February 2007, reaching 63 percent of all households found that HIV home delivered services were the best.

A year later, Human Rights Watch and the Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa collaborated on a research on Lesotho’s “Know Your Status” door-to-door testing campaign.

At least 1,2 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in Zimbabwe while current anti-retroviral therapy (ART) coverage — based on the initiation of HIV patients whose CD4 count is 350 and below — stands at 86 percent. 

With the new World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines requiring every person with a CD4 count of 500 to be immediately put on ART and the simultaneous projected rise of ARV clients from 860 000 to 1,2 million, the government has no financial strength to initiate any processes on the adoption campaign. 

President Robert Mugabe is on record saying mandatory HIV testing is the most effective way to curb the spread of HIV, as long as results are kept confidential.

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