HIV prevalence rate in Matabeleland higher than National average : youths and women, most affected.

While it is encouraging to note that Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence rate has dropped to less than half the figure it was ten years ago at 26% to 13,6% today, the fact that Matabeleland’s prevalence average stands higher than the national average rate at 18%, raises a lot of concerns.

According to workers in the field, this could be due to a lot of factors including the fact that two of the country’s busiest boarder towns; that is Beitbridge and Plumtree are situated in this region. Matabelalnd AIDS Council (MAC) officials have also raised alarm at the fact that despite the national prevalence figures dropping significantly, Matabeleland still recorded high numbers of new infections on a daily basis.

The regional statistics and the fact that the most affected are young people and mostly young women raise concerns. A lot of factors have been sighted as leading to this including unemployment leading to financial instability as well as peer pressure amongst others.

It is the view of the NYDT that robust participation by young people in the new constitution as well as deliberated steps to keep the message of HIV and AIDS alive in the lives of young people can go a long way in curbing the spread and effects of the scourge. The constitution for example can ensure that young people have a right to basic rights like free elementary education, vocational training, jobs and business loans to empower them and ensure that they are not forced into risky behaviour to make ends meet.

The situation means that more should be done to change the attitudes of the young people and raise their awareness on the virus. The risks they face, the chances they have to stay HIV free and the options they have for treatment and support should they contract it. This also draws back to constitutional matters as limited media sources is making it very difficult for health practitioners and HIV and AIDS activists to effectively engage the people in the Matabeleland areas. Most of the parts of the region do not have media coverage as the state controlled radio-stations and the few print media outlets available do not reach then and have been limited to churning out political propaganda instead of fulfilling its social responsibilities.

Another challenge is in the fact that very few Zimbabweans can afford or even access the print media and the few cannot do so on a daily basis. This is even truer for young people especially in rural areas who have no source of income and have little access to newspapers or publications on the pandemic.

With these facts in mind, NYDT, with the support of the United States embassy will be launching vigorous HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns in the boarder towns of Plumtree and Beitbridge. This will be done with the aim of kick starting a drive towards HIV/AIDS reduction and eradication in the said areas and the country as a whole. Large scale mobilisation of young people to get tested and counseled will be carried out together with the setting up of a “Wall of Hope” in Beitbridge. The wall will act as an endless reminder of the scourge, our confident fight against it as well as the remembrance of those that have fought it positively and have passed away with hope for a cure for future generations.

NYDT therefore calls upon all young people and the leadership from Matabelaland and all over Zimbabwe to join in this campaign against HIV/AIDS. HIV does affect everyone. Let us fight the stigmatisation against our peers living with the virus by knowing our status and actively supporting those living with HIV or AIDS.

HIV/AIDS-an HIV/AIDS free generation begins with a complete shift in behaviour and attitude-Let us lead in eradicating the scourge!

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