International world Aids day is a worldwide celebrated day every 1st of December people from all corners of the world commemorate this day as they stand in solidarity with those who are infected and those who have lost their lives from this disease. The theme for this year world Aids day is Hands up for #HIV prevention.
To celebrate this day people put on red ribbons ,The red ribbon is the global symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS. World AIDS Day, designated on 1 December every year since 1988, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease.
According to Avert statistics Zimbabwe has the fifth highest HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa at 15%. 1.4 million people are living with HIV including 170,000 children, equating to 4% of the global total.
New infections dropped by 34% between 2005 and 2013, with behaviour change communication and high treatment coverage thought to be responsible for this decline.Yet there were still 69,000 new infections in 2013.
In the same year, there were 64,000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, a 57% reduction since 2005. 890,000 children are orphaned due to AIDS.
Around half of all sex workers in Zimbabwe are living with HIV. Smaller-scale studies have found much higher HIV prevalence among sex workers, such as between 50 and 70% in Victoria Falls, Hwange and Mutare. Half of those who tested positive during the study did not know they were positive. Only 25-30% of sex workers who tested positive during the study were accessing antiretroviral treatment. This is concerning in an environment where condoms are being confiscated and gender inequality makes condom negotiation difficult.
Sex work is illegal in the country, with police often using their powers to intimidate, arrest and harass sex workers. The possession of condoms is used as proof of sex work, with many sex workers reporting being arrested due to their work, or having their condoms confiscated. This hampers sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use with clients, if they haven’t got any condoms of their own, heightening their risk of HIV.
Sex workers, and the organisations representing them, are not involved in the Zimbabwean response to HIV, marginalising them and preventing them from accessing services. Including this group in HIV prevention initiatives would have a much greater outcome on the health of sex workers and the population as a whole.
4.1% of young people aged 15-24 are living with HIV. However, with only 45% of young women and 24% of young men having ever tested for HIV, prevalence among this group is likely to be significantly higher.
Only 52% of young women and 47% of young men have comprehensive knowledge about HIV, limiting their ability to engage in safer sex. However, young people who do not know where to get a condom are much less likely to have had sex, compared to those who do know where to get a condom. This suggests an understanding of the risks involved in not using a condom among this group.
Relationships with large age-differences are common in sub-Saharan African countries, and 15% of young women aged 15-19 in Zimbabwe report having had sex with a man 10 years older. This ‘sugar-daddy’ culture can contribute to an elevated risk of HIV for young women as they are exposed to older men who may be more likely to have HIV, or have the power in the relationship.
Some Zimbabweans hold the belief that promoting condoms to young people encourages them to experiment with sex at an early age. Indeed, more than half of adult respondents in the 2010/2011 Demographic and Health Survey felt it inappropriate to teach young people aged 12-14 about condoms.Avoiding education about condom use is detrimental to the health of young people and put them at greater risk of HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy.
Stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV in Zimbabwe remains a big issue. One study found that 65% of people living with HIV had experienced it.
Although people showed more accepting attitudes towards family members with HIV in the DHS 2010-11, they continued to show discriminatory attitudes towards shopkeepers or teachers who had HIV.
Out of the four scenarios asked in the survey (willingness to buy vegetables from an infected shopkeeper, let others know the HIV status of a family member, take care of a family member with HIV, agree that a teacher with HIV should be allowed to continue teaching), only 40% of women and 39% of men showed accepting attitudes to all four situations.
However, 95% of respondents were willing to care for a family member with HIV, suggesting that personal beliefs about HIV may differ to beliefs expressed in society outside of the home. This reflected in the fact that only half of people said they would tell other people about a family member with HIV.
As the world commemorates this day it is important for one to go and get tested so that they know their status..
GET TESTED AND KNOW YOUR STATUS