PARAMOUNT Chief Chivi and his headmen have pledged to undergo a public voluntary HIV testing along with their spouses to help encourage communities under his territory to follow suit.
The influential traditional leader, born Emanuel Chimba, further promised they would all reveal the outcome of the tests in an effort to fight stigma associated with the disease and to prevent its spread.
Speaking on the side-lines of a community dialogue on HIV with traditional leaders in Chivi on Thursday, Paramount Chief Chivi said the initiative has been inspired by the increase in HIV/Aids related deaths in his area.
The deaths, it has been reported, have not spared even children below the age of five.
In taking up voluntary HIV testing, Chief Chivi said he was aware of the influence traditional leaders have in motivating those under their leadership to also go for testing, something he said would help fight the pandemic.
"It’s no longer a secret that AIDs is real and, as leaders, we need to protect the future generation. That's why as the chief in the area and my headmen, along with our wives, will be at the forefront of being tested, and make our status known. We will lead by example," he said.
The community dialogue was organised by the Southern Africa HIV and Aids Information Dissemination Service (SaFAIDS), and Batanai HIV and AIDS Service Organization (BHASO).
The two organisations are implementing partners in the Families and Communities for the Elimination of paediatric HIV FACE paediatric in Zimbabwe.
BHASO youth technical support officer, Runyararo Mutarikwa said engaging community leadership helps in the continuity of HIV awareness projects in the rural areas.
"It is essential in engaging community leaders as part of a project ownership strategy. NGOs or any other private sector go into communities for a short time on the availability of funding but once it’s exhausted, we move out but traditional leaders will always be there,” he said.
"We have to make them understand national priorities on health so that they become part of the project even after we have left, they will be responsible for its continuity."
In calling for traditional leaders to front the fight against the pandemic, Chief Chivi was echoing similar sentiments made by Chief Crispen Malisa of Silobela 2011.
In his case, Chief Malisa challenged fellow traditional leaders to undergo compulsory tests to give more impetus to various campaigns aimed at reducing the scourge.
Zimbabwe's HIV prevalence is slightly under 15 percent but remains one of the highest in the world.
Few people are still reluctant to visit clinics designated for testing to know their status in apparent fear to be told they were infected with the dreaded virus.