Cotton a curse for Midlands: As sexually transmitted infection rise during marketing season

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

THE cotton marketing season’s rich pickings every year, brings with it a spike in cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as gender based violence, a National Aids Council (NAC) official has said.

NAC provincial aids coordinator Mambewu Shumba told New in a recent interview that the rate of infections have however been going down due to awareness campaigns by the State funded organisation.

“The highest cases of sexually transmitted diseases are found in districts like Gweru, Shurugwi, Gokwe South, Zvishavane and Kwekwe.

“For Gokwe South you know it’s a cotton area hence the cases normally rise during that time when cotton is on sale,” Shumba said.

“Like right now the marketing season has just begun and given that people come from all over the country to buy, we record more infections.”

Shumba added that some people come to the Midlands to sell their wares, taking advantage of the financial windfall that comes with the white-gold’s marketing season.

“The season brings truckers, buyers, sellers and other people from surrounding villages who basically relocate to Gokwe Centre turning it into a hive of activity.

“Transmission of diseases then turns into a provincial problem,” said Shumba.

The NAC provincial coordinator added that despite the perennial problem their interventions seem to be bearing fruit.

“The major challenge however has been that most of the people in these rural areas and those relocated under the land reform programme in particular have no access to primary healthcare facilities once they get infected.  We have areas where people have to travel 60kms to the nearest clinic.

“And a clinic is not supposed to service not more than 10 000 clients but you find in areas such Gokwe South, a clinic service more than 12 000 which is bellowed World Health Organisation standards,” he said.

NAC has introduced a condom champion campaign in the province.

“You will be aware that the NAC is mandated with provision of interventions hence we have undertaken outreach initiatives to treat STIs and we train what we call Condom Champions,” said Shumba.

“The purpose of the Condom Champions is actually to make sure people access condoms from their peers hence the condom champions are picked from various sectors. If you go to sex workers we have the condom champions, the same goes for artisanal miners, cross border traders, rank marshalls and vendors.”

According to Shumba the cotton marketing season also brings with it a rise in cases of gender based violence.