Key populations might affect HIV/Aids targets

By Daniel Chigundu

SHAMVA South legislator Joseph Mapiki says the country risks losing out on its effort to eradicate HIV/Aids by the year 2030 if it continues to leave out key populations such as transgender people and prisoners in its response strategies.

The issue of transgender is very topical in the country, with President Robert Mugabe labelling them as being worse than pigs and dogs.

However, this labelling has seen such groups as gays and lesbians being left out in various health programs as they fear coming out in the open owing to the stigma associated with their conditions.

Speaking in the National Assembly recently, Honourable Mapiki said because some organisations and special groups are not being targeted there are chances Zimbabwe will miss its target on HIV.

“The major problem regarding the President’s Speech in terms of health is the matter of the eradication of HIV and AIDS.  We have serious challenges in prisons.  The highest infection figures are in prisons.

“The major problem is, we are not coming up with measures to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.  Men are involved in homosexual activities.  There are some organisations that are not being targeted.  We run the risk of failing to achieve the targets that we have set for the eradication and prevention of HIV and AIDS,” he said.

When Zimbabwe hosted the ICASA Conference in 2015, organisations involved in the fight against HIV/Aids generally agreed that the disease can only be eradicated if no one is left behind in the fight.

While it is agreed that there are high levels of HIV/Aids infection in the country’s prisons, organisations working in the fight against the disease are facing challenges in addressing the issues owing to Zimbabwe’s stance on gays and lesbians.

It is believed that prisoners are engaging in homosexuality activities in prison but are not being given condoms for protection as it would be interpreted to mean acceptance of the practice in the country.

However, failure to deal with the issue of prisoners will likely affect the country’s 90.90.90 strategy on HIV/Aids.

The strategy entails that by 2020, 90 percent of people should know their HIV status, 90 percent of HIV positive people receive medication and 90 percent of people on ART will have viral load suppression.

Currently, there are nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV/ Aids in the country and only 1 029 719 are receiving medication.

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