DEPUTY Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and the Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo have revealed they are HIV negative as part of a new drive by MPs to encourage people to undergo voluntary HIV testing in a bid to help curb stigmatisation and discrimination.
Some 181 Members of Parliament took part in the voluntary public HIV testing and counseling exercise Friday while another 23 were circumcised. Circumcision is said to reduce female-to-male transmission of HIV by up to 60 percent.
Khupe said she was initially scared of going for the test when Blessing Chebundo, who is chairs the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians against HIV and Aids (ZIPAH), phoned Thursday asking if she would take part in the programme.
“Initially I was afraid of going for HIV testing, but on second thought I said to myself if I took cancer head on I will manage HIV. When I got to Parliament, staff from the New Start centre where waiting for me,” she said.
“I was tested and told to come back for my results after 20 minutes. I went into the Speaker of Parliament’s office; I was so jittery that I said no to the food he offered me.
“After the 20 minutes I went to get my results and I was told I am HIV negative. Normally I do not get excited about things but yesterday I was excited about my test results.”
Moyo said he was lucky to test HIV negative.
“This public VCT and male circumcision exercise which began on Wednesday is a demonstration by Members of Parliament having heeded calls of HIV and Aids organisations and activists who called upon the leadership of this country to lead by example,” he said.
“In response to the calls the MPs have voluntarily submitted themselves to public testing and circumcision. Indeed this is a demonstration of leading by example. Yesterday (Thursday) I led from the forefront as head of Parliament.
“I now know my status. I was lucky to be tested HIV negative and I am happy. I say I am lucky because all of us do indulge and are also targets of this scourge.”
MDC-T MPs Gift Dzirutwe and Paul Mazikana were among the 23 lawmakers who stepped into a mobile clinic set up inside the parliament building to undergo circumcision.
“The only person I feel sorry for is my wife who for the next six weeks won’t have sex, however after two weeks I will try to cuddle her and see what happens,” said Dzirutwe.
Mazikana added: “It was painless, as I was lying on the bed and the team was cutting my instrument (penis) I was thinking of my wife who went through the same process while giving birth because she had stitches, so I have done this for her that she will reduce chances of getting cervical cancer and also that I am always smart.”
Zimbabwe is targeting to have 1.2 million boys and men circumcised by 2015 but campaigners have warned that the procedure should not be seen as a green light for people to have unprotected sex.
“Circumcision is not a magic bullet but part of a prevention package. There is a lot of misconception out there and we are appealing to the media to help us communicate that circumcision is not a magic bullet,” said Dr Owen Mugurungi and HIV and TB specialist with the Ministry of Health.
“The media has to educate the community not to move around looking for circumcised men with the intention of not using protection when they have sex.
“Women are now looking for men who are circumcised and they do not want to use condoms. We should not be creating false hope.”
Zimbabwe has 1.1 million people living with HIV, including 150,000 children, according to the National AIDS Council.
Leading by example ... Parliamentarians against HIV/Aids chairman Blessing Chebundo