John Kufuna, Minister of Zambia’s Western Province, has said the increase of new HIV infections in Western Province from the 2007 Demographic Health Survey (D.H.S) is a threat to the country’s quest to attaining the reduction of new HIV infections by 50% by 2015.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director, Susan Brems had said Zambia is one of the countries that has been hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. Speaking in Mongu recently during the commemoration to mark the opening of the New Start Centre in Western Province, Mr Kufuna said the 2007 D.H.S indicated the province had recorded an increase in new infections from 13 per cent in 2001 to 15.2% in 2007.
He said women were the most affected by HIV, with 10.4% being HIV positive among discordant couples. Only 43.3% of women and 25% of men had been tested for HIV in Western Province. Mr Kufuna also stated the prevalence of male circumcision in Western Province was at 40.2% while the uptake of long acting reversible contraceptives was at 0 per cent according to the 2007 D.H.S.
Bearing in mind the above statistics, it is important that prevention measures are intensified and that the government will support partners like USAID who are working through local NGOs to address the high prevalence of HIV, he said. He was happy that the newly opened New Start Centre being run by the Society for Family Health (SFHI) would offer essential services such as counselling and testing for individuals and couples, voluntary medical male circumcision and long term family planning services. He also said the timely introduction of the health services to the province would go a long way in complimenting government efforts in combating the HIV epidemic.
Dr Brems commended the Zambian government for its efforts in addressing the high HIV prevalence in the country. She said the Zambian government had set in place measures that have drastically reduced the numbers of people dying from HIV and AIDS.
The number of people living with HIV who receive Anti-retroviral Treatment has risen from just a few thousands to over 400,000 today.
However, she stated that the Zambian citizens were key in the fight against HIV and AIDS by way of knowing their HIV status.
She encouraged the people in western Province to embrace health choices such as use of condoms, staying faithful to one sexual partner and also encouraged men to see medical male circumcision as a way of reducing the spread of HIV. She further said combined approaches to HIV prevention and treatment, coupled with strong political will from government and effective government partnerships between public and private sectors would ensure achieving an AIDS free generation in Zambia is a step closer to reality.