Early Child Marriages Expose Marange Adolescent Girls To HIV Infection- FACT

FAMILY Aids Caring Trust  (FACT) Community Health Officer, Ms Mirriam Muchadzingwa says there is need to scale up efforts to curb early child marriages in Marange District in order to address the growing HIV burden in young girls.

By Michael Gwarisa

Speaking to HealthTimes during a Media Tour in Marange recently, Mrs Muchadzingwa said even though the rate of new infections in young girls was still low in the district, cases were being recorded and early child marriages could be the biggest source of the infections.

This place is not highly burdened as you can see but our problem otherwise is early child marriages which then we think may predispose young girls to HIV. So as an organisation, we don’t wait for the area to be high burdened, we are working towards epidemic control.

“We need to control it before it becomes burdened, that is why we are now looking at adolescent girls here because they are getting into early marriages and we need now to empower them so that they negotiate for safe sex which then prevents them from HIV infections,” said Mrs Muchadzingwa.

She added that they have at least 23 children (0 to 17 year) living with HIV  and of the 23, five have a high viral load and  efforts are underway to ensure their viral load is suppressed through encouraging adherence and constant uptake of ART drugs.

She also said they work in collaboration with Village Health Workers to encourage adherence amongst young people in the area.

“We have what we call community clinic leadership where we have a team which visits those children who have high viral load, we encourage them to visit their homesteads. They go and talk and counsel through what we call adherence counseling.

“They monitor how the young ones will be taking their medications. The issues surrounding high viral load are so dynamic and poor adherence is one of them. We noted that for some households, young people living with HIV failed to take their medications on the stipulated time all because they did  not have a Clock (watch).”

She said the Clock was a very critical component in the adherence equation since the medications work effectively if taken at the stipulated time. FACT works with Village health workers to track ART uptake and response to medication by ART clients in communities.

“The Village Health workers work voluntarily, they come and monitor to see if the medications are being taken on time. At times those who do not have Clocks in their home visit the health workers houses to check on time just make sure they adhere.

“We however still have challenges with issues of time as many still don’t have clocks or watches to guide. Viral suppression is not only about taking medications, they are a lot of things that need to be adhered to. The issue of the clock, is someone does have one, it’s a challenge. With ARVs, if the timetable says 07:00 O’clock, its has to be 07:00 O’clock, anything other than that will create problems. It’s not just about medications only,” said Mrs Muchadzingwa.

Meanwhile, HIV amongst young girls has doubled over the years compared to their male counterparts. According to the UNAIDS women were disproportionately affected by HIV compared to men in Zimbabwe. Of the 1 200 000 adults living with HIV, 730 000 (60.83%) were women. A total of  9000 new infections were recorded among young women, compared to 4200 among young men in 2018. HIV treatment was higher among women than men, however, with 93% of adult women living with HIV on treatment, compared to 83% of adult men.

 

 

 

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