HIV testing and counselling is a critical entry point to the disease prevention and treatment, says Community Development minister Emerine Kabanshi
Ms Kabanshi said HIV testing and counselling was a prevention strategy that enabled more people to know their HIV status and therefore make informed choices and prevent behaviours that promoted reduction in HIV transmission.
Ms Kabanshi was speaking in Lusaka yesterday during the launch of World AIDS Day/Week-Districts testing and counselling campaign and whose theme is “Zambia @50,Towards Zero Stigma”
She said HIV was spreading rapidly in many places including Zambia and without mitigation, it caused high morbidity and mortality in communities.
“It is for this reason that Zambia is implementing Universal Access to HIV testing in order to increase the number of people that know their HIV status and thereby help them take action to avoid acquiring the virus and passing it on to other people” she said
Ms Kabanshi however said stigma has been identified as one of the main barriers to universal access and utilization of HIV and AIDS related services.
“Stigma is a spoilt identify, to stigmize is to label someone: to see them inferior because of an attribute or condition they have,
“The causes of stigma include insufficient knowledge about HIV, misbeliefs and fears about HIV transmission, moral judgment about people living with HIV and fears about disease and death and lack of recognition of stigma,” she said.
Ms Kabanshi said however that fortunately there was an effective treatment for HIV and many ways to prevent transmission, adding however that in order to realize the above, it was important for people to know their status by getting tested regularly.
“Pregnant women who are aware of their positive status can be supported to prevent transmission to their infants. Knowledge of HIV status can also help people to make decisions to protect themselves and their sexual partners from infection,” she said
Earlier Zambia’s acting country director for the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Ms Tamu Daniel said Washington and Lusaka have been working in partnership to end the HIV epidemic since 2004.
Ms Daniel said over the last 10 years the United States has provided more than US$2 billion to the HIV response in Zambia
She said today Zambia was embarking on an ambitious campaign to test two million people for HIV, adding that PEPFAR’s goal was to support the Zambian Government as it worked towards an AID-free generation.