ZIMBABWE will not win the war against the spread of HIV and AIDS as long as the country continues to ignore the sources of new infections, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parerinyatwa has warned.
Colleges and universities across the country have become new sources of high HIV infection and interventions needed to target these institutions, the minister said.
In May this year, State media reported that voluntary HIV testing at the University of Zimbabwe had revealed that 47% of the students who participated tested positive for HIV at the country’s oldest tertiary institution.
University authorities later rejected the allegations, dismissing the report as “not only mischievous, but gutter journalism of the worst kind”.
However, in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Dr Parirenyatwa said: “New HIV infections at higher learning institutions have shot up and statistics available are shocking, particularly among young women and girls.
“So the challenge that I am giving to departments in my Ministry and other stakeholders in the fight against the spread of HIV is – how do we close that ‘tape’ at the universities?
“It’s a big, big challenge because to close the tape, you have to be tested then treated, so we need to identify it and it’s the places I have mentioned.
“So we are now saying let’s close all those tapes where HIV is coming in through.”
Last week the health ministry received the first of 19 pre-fabricated Opportunistic Infection/Antiretroviral Treatment OI/ART porta-cabin units at Glen View Polyclinic in Harare.
Each of the cabins has three rooms for consultation, counselling and a pharmacy.
The cabins were built by funds from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which is aimed at helping save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world.
With an adult prevalence rate of 13.7% Zimbabwe is one of the five countries hardest hit by HIV and AIDS globally.
An estimated 1,102,864 million people – one in five Zimbabwean adults – were living with HIV and AIDS in 2009 while approximately 66,073 people died of AIDS related causes.
It is estimated that 343,460 adults are in need of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and 70% occupancy in health facilities is attributed to HIV and AIDS related illnesses.
More than 35,000 children are said to be in need of Anti-Retroviral Therapy, but only 17,000 are accessing the life prolonging drugs.