Government has embarked on a family test and treat HIV and Aids campaign aimed at increasing the number of men and children accessing anti-retroviral drugs.Officially launching the campaign, expected to see over 120 000 people getting tested in the next 10 days in Harare alone, Minister of State for Harare Province Miriam Chikukwa said voluntary medical male circumcision would also be carried out at all health institutions.
“This year’s campaign is taking a new twist altogether as we are deliberately targeting men. We have also realised that a significant gap still exists regarding the testing rate for children,” she said.
Minister Chikukwa said the family approach HTC campaign encourages people to get tested as a family — moving away from the couple approach that has been in place all along.
With this approach, those testing negative are encouraged to reduce the risk of getting infection, while those testing positive are referred for further services.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (2010-2011) more women than men between 15-49 years were tested for HIV in the past 12 months.
Statistics also show that less than half of the 156 718 living with HIV were on treatment.
“As parents and guardians, we need a concerted effort to ensure that we take our children or the children within our care for HIV testing. It is important to test children in a family centred approach,” said Minister Chikukwa.
Speaking at the same occasion, head of Aids and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Owen Mugurungi said HIV testing and counselling was an entry point to treatment and care.
“Hard work and experience in HIV testing and counselling in Zimbabwe has seen the programme evolve to where it is now,” he said.
The HTC campaign is a build up to the annual continental World Aids Day celebrations on December 1 and this year’s celebrations will be held in Victoria Falls as Zimbabwe hosts other African Union member states.
Testing and counselling in Zimbabwe started as early as 1984 through routine screening of donated blood, but later on around the 1990s people suspected of being infected with the virus were tested at Government facilities.
In 1997, the first voluntary counselling and testing facility was opened in Bulawayo and Harare.HERALD