Zimbabwe records reduction in HIV infections
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The reduction in multiple partners and high levels of condom use in the country has been strong enough to slow down HIV transmission.
In an interview during a media tour organised by the Global Fund, the NAC manager for the national behavioural change programme, Mr Oscar Mundida, said of late fewer people were having casual or multiple sexual partners while many people were also using condoms with non-regular partners.
He pointed out most Zimbabweans had recognised positive behaviour change makes a difference in the fight against HIV saying people now appreciate the existence of the pandemic and take measures to protect themselves.
"There has been a significant decline in the HIV prevalence among adults as more people in the country are now using condoms with non-regular partners while fewer have casual sex or multiple sex partners," said Mr Mundida.
"Zimbabwe's HIV epidemic, just like the epidemics in Southern African countries, is mainly driven by heterosexual transmission. This has been linked to networks of multiple, including concurrent sexual relations, in which high viral load of new HIV infections is passed on rapidly. However, reductions in multiple partners and high levels of condom use in Zimbabwe have reduced HIV transmission in these networks."
Mr Mundida said the NAC behavioural change programme, through the Global Fund, exposed over four million people to voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and trained more than 500 000 community members in 33 districts
"Over 500 000 community members have successfully completed their five-week behavioural change courses where they are encouraged to love, respect, be faithful to one partner and reduce stigma and discrimination.
"More than four million people in the country's 59 districts have also been exposed to HIV VCT through the Expanded Support Programme (ESP) and the Global Fund," he said.
Mr Mundida said stakeholders in the country's HIV response were making efforts to sustain the positive trend.
"Stakeholders in the Zimbabwe HIV response are making efforts to scale up the promotion of consistent condom use, HIV prevention services such as the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), while male circumcision is also being promoted as an additional HIV prevention tool.
"We have also engaged the community leadership, faith based organisations, the private and the public sector in our programmes to create a rapid dissemination of Aids awareness and HIV prevention messages," said Mr Mundida.
The head of department at Harare Hospital's Opportunistic Infections (OI) clinic and specialist physician Dr Tapiwa Bwakura said a significant decline in bed ridden clients had been noted at the hospital.
He attributed the decline to appreciation of the pandemic, openness and more HIV testing and good drug supply.
The institution has managed to initiate more than 11 000 on antiretroviral treatment.
"There has been a lot of acceptance among patients living with HIV as we have seen an increase in people being tested. People now appreciate HIV and about 70 percent of our clients know their status as they would have been tested elsewhere. The willingness to live among patients has seen less patients defaulting," said Dr Bwakura.
He, however, bemoaned the lack of funding for health, which has caused a string of failures at different points in the sector.
"Funding for health has gone down and we have a limited number of skilled personnel with poor remuneration. This has caused a string of failures that need to be attended to at different points in the health sector," he said.
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