ECONOMIC hardships and lack of consistent income has exposed people residing in former white commercial farms to HIV and risky sexual behavior leading to a spike in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV in the areas, HealthTimes has learnt.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Centenary
After the land reform program which government embarked on in the early 2000s, most farm workers were left stranded as the new indigenous owners failed to take them on board.
According to the National AIDS Council (NAC) District Aids Coordinator (DAC) for Mzarabani, Mr Richard Chasima, the farms have become a fertile breeding ground for new HIV and STIs with cases of women sharing being rampant.
“In terms of HIV and AIDS prevalence, Mzarabani district has got 11.3 percent, and this is according to our National HIV estimates of 2017. We have got 10, 161 people who are in need of Ante retro viral therapy (ART) services. In terms of our ART coverage, we are at 56 percent coverage for adults and 64 percent coverage for children.
“For Muzarabani district, in terms of our HIV burden, we have got a major problem of STIs, as we try to implement our HIV programs, you will notice that along the way, we have an increase in STIs. As we looked at a trend that is coming from 2016 up to 2017, the trend is showing an upward increase of STIs.
“This is worrisome because STIs are a true reflection of unprotected sex. We also have new infections which are coming from our hotspot areas in this case, our major hotspots are our business centres, Muzarabani growth point and a township at St Alberts. We also have our farm compounds you know Centenary is divided into two, the communal and farming areas. The farming is found in upper Mzarabani and the communal in lower Mzarabani,” said Mr Chasima.
He added that the people who were left in the former white farms jobless and becasue they do not have any means of making money, they have resorted to risky unprotected sexual behaviour.
“If you look at the health facilities that service the farming areas and those that service the communal areas, you will notice that STIs are high in those centres particularly the one we have here at David Nelson which serves the former white commercial farms and centenary.
“In most of our former farm white farms, the major risk factor there is unprotected sex and their risk perception is very low maybe it has been also compounded by the low levels of education. There is also some kind of women changing, they don’t just stick to one husband, if you get into a compound you will see that one women could marry more than one man within a very short space of time and to them, it is normal.”
However, NAC is working with various partners on the ground to scale up HIV treatment and care in the district. The partners include ZAPSO, St Alberts CHBC a subsidiary of St Alberts Hospital, who are also implementing on HIV programs and have strong Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programs. The ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) is also the major implementer.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe AIDS Prevention Support Organisation (ZAPSO) Program Officer, Mr Gondai Dekeza said they were implementing a behaviour change program in Mzarabani hotspots in a bid to reduce the HIV burden and the risk of new infections.
“In Mzarabani we are implementing the behaviour change program which comprise the home visit program, Parent Child Communicators (PCC), and sister to sister. We operate within communities, we work with different cadres at community level.
“We started operating here in 2010 where we used to have group sessions. Our main vision is to promote communities that are proactive and healthy with a view to creating an HIV free generation,” said Dekeza.