THERE is need to have programs targeting young women aged between 19 and 34 years particularly those at educational tertiary institutions to lower HIV Incidence rates in Zimbabwe.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
This emerged during an International Aids Society Harare Scientific Symposium which brought HIV experts from across the SADC region.
AIDS and TB Director Dr Owen Mgurungi bemoaned the high incidence of HIV among young adolescent females.
“The incidence is below point nine percent but its not homogenous. There are areas where we have high incidence. There are areas where we have less incidence. The same happens with the number of people who test positive. Where are the infections occurring? We all know that about a third of all infections are people who are around 30 to 69.
“The majority of the infections are the young persons under the age of 30 years which account to close to 54 percent of all infections that happen in this country. And we also know that there are more females living with HIV than males. But when you look at a younger age, more females are infected than the males of their age group,” he said.
UNAIDS Acting Country Director Mia Mumtaz said it was a worrying trend of young adolescents particularly those over 19.
“So in southern Africa, the biggest problem we have with new infections is among young adolescents, young people especially young female adolescents. So there has been recently a lot of focus on the younger age group, adolescents up to 19 years old who are still in secondary school where programs have been upscaled especially here in Zimbabwe in terms of protecting them, social protection where they have programs that keep them in school and prevent them from HIV.
“But then we lose them when we get to tertiary schools, university levels. And we haven’t really done much. We have realised in an ongoing study with the National Aids Council of Zimbabwe that is looking at what are some of the specifics that young women are facing at tertiary institutions in terms of HIV, teach them how to prevent them from HIV as well as other STIs and pregnancy as well,” she said.
According to UNAIDS, in 2017, Zimbabwe had 170 new infections among young women every week compared to young men who recorded 73.