By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE National Aids Council (NAC) has revealed that more than 5 000 children are living with HIV in Mashonaland Central out of 78 000 who have the infection.
While the rush for gold in Bindura area has brought instant wealth to many – both young and old – it has been a driver of HIV/Aids prevalence in the Mashonaland Central province.
The youth are hardest hit by the disease.
Speaking to journalists during a media tour organised by National Aids Council (NAC), the organisation’s provincial manager Edgar Muzulu said the problem of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) was high among youths in the province.
“Knowledge among the youths is a little bit low, it is 38.8% for boys and 41.9% for girls,” Muzulu said.
“In terms of youths, we have a problem of sexual violence in the province, and during the Covid-19 period, we recorded 5 000 plus such incidents and Mbire district recorded quite a bigger share of the problem, followed by Rushinga and Muzarabani as well Bindura and Shamva districts.”
“So, you would find out that the epidemic in these districts is driven by a number of key factors among them, multiple concurrent partners where a man or a woman will have the luxury of having sexual intimacy with more than one partner; that is prevalent in the districts especially in the mining areas.”
“And also in the farming areas, swapping partners is the norm; it doesn’t matter today I am married to this one and tomorrow to another woman.
“So those are some of the practices that will then drive the epidemic.”
Muzulu added, “We also have a group called the key populations and we are focusing more on those who sell sex, either men or women.
“Our focus targets mostly young girls who sell sex because we also have a problem that is currently emerging in most urban set-ups especially areas like Glendale, Bindura as well as Mt Darwin districts.
“That problem is now prevalent especially among young girls selling sex.”
Most clients for these are artisanal miners as the province is endowed with a lot of mineral resources and also rich in agriculture.
“So, that wealth is also beneficiary, but it has also brought some problems associated with sexual activities as people try to get the elusive US dollar through selling sex.
“So, that is one which has also contributed to a spike in STI case.”
The NAC provincial manager said the organisation has made a lot of interventions in attempts to reduce the scourge of STIs but admitted this was tough as prevalence keeps rising.
“In terms of prevalence rate, we are at 10.2% as a province and in terms of the incidence, we are at 0.25%,” Muzulu said.
“Then in terms of people living with HIV, we have an estimated number of 78 709 of which that figure is aggregated into 5 178 being children.
“And in terms of ART coverage, our health facilities in the province have 100 % ART coverage and HIV knowledge is 81.7% and this one is for men and for women is at 90.1% for the age group 15 to 49 years old.”