SHORTAGE of health care centres in Masvingo province has resulted in most babies being born HIV positive as most mothers miss out on antenatal visits, a National Aids Council official has said.
By Michael Gwarisa in Masvingo
The province has a population of 1 386 604 according the 2012 census and an HIV prevalence of 12.8 percent and a total of 9 700 are children living with HIV despite various interventions by government and partners to eradicate the disease.
Speaking to Journalist during an Editors Media tour in Masvingo, National Aids Council (NAC) Provincial Manager, Mr Edgar Muzulu said the province was recording increased cases of HIV in children aged zero to 14 and pregnant women in some localities such as Mwenezi travel 50 kilometres to the nearest health centre, a factor which he says discourages Antenatal visits.
“In terms of HIV prevalence for the province, we have 12.8 percent that is out of every 100 people we have an average of 12 people living with HIV. In terms of HIV burden, we have Chivi district having the highest prevalence rate at 14.6 percent and Bikita district recording the lowest at 11 percent.
“As for the number of people living with HIV, in terms of absolute figures, by the end of September, we had about 138 208 people living with HIV, and out of these we had 9 700 being children. These are the children we are having in terms of clients on Anti Retro Viral Therapy (ART),” said Mr Muzulu.
He added the province was experiencing high cases of home deliveries a situation which is derailing their efforts of eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV (EMTCT).
“We have the zero to 14 years those are the groups we call children. One of the major reason is that of home deliveries, most children are born not in formal health centres. We have districts like Mwenenzi with very few health centres where people have to walk more than 50 kilometres so if pregnant mothers want to deliver, they may find it difficult.
“In as much as we are trying to work with other partners including the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC) to eliminate mother to child transmission, we are still recording 4 percent of the mothers having their babies born HIV positive.”
He also said there was a rise in child sexual abuse in the province and it could also be one of the leading causes in the spike HIV cases in children although they are yet to scientifically prove it.
NAC and government are also working with Africaid through their Zvandiri initiative to provide HIV care, treatment and counselling to young people living with HIV.
In 2017, Africaid received an amount to the tune of US$20 million towards to scale up the Zvandiri initiative which proven over time to be useful tool towards promoting ART adherence and Psycho-social support to children and adolescents living with HIV.
Meanwhile, In terms of key drivers of HIV in Masvingo province, factors such as multiple concurrent partners, low risk perception, low condom use especially in long term relations, low levels of male circumcision, age mixing or intergenerational relations, transactional sex are some of the leading causes.
“Our hotspots are Masvingo urban, accounting for quite a number of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), we also have Jerera growth point, Chibi turn off, Ngundu and Chiredzi district also accounting for a number of STIs. For your own information STIs are a proxy to HIV infections,”