THE National AIDS Council (NAC) has implored citizens to desist from engaging in risky promiscuous sexual behavior under the prevailing lockdown period to avoid an increase in new HIV cases amongst the population.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview with HealthTimes, NAC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Bernard Madzima said people need to be vigilant especially during these times when access to various health services including HIV services could be restricted in some instances owing to the strict lockdown regulations.
During this COVID-19 lockdown or new normal, there are a lot of social issues which really come to the fore and amongst those are the issues of HIV risk or the issue of getting new infections. This is because most programs for HIV prevention have been affected by the restricted movements, whether they are awareness programs or whether they are services provision programs, there has definitely been a negative effect to the programs.
“We also know that being confined to spaces people might become redundant and because they don’t have many things to do, thoughts can actually be diverted to issues of promiscuity and risky sexual behaviors. Those things are very possible and people need to guard against that. They need to be careful that the environment does not become fertile ground for promiscuous behavior leading to increased HIV infections, unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” said Dr Madzima.
He added that there was also fears of increased Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases as well as sexual based violence which could also lead to a spike in new HIV Infections.
“Also tied to this lockdown in the issue of GBV and in certain instances Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV). We know that in these extreme times, sometimes people become confined to spaces and these can be fertile grounds for GBV leading to even HIV related behaviors.”
Meanwhile, In Zimbabwe, the risks of gender-based violence continue to intensify in scale and scope while the population is exposed to degenerating food insecurity, compounded by economic hardship and the COVID-19 movement restriction measures.
According to the national GBV Hotline (Musasa), a total of 3,452 GBV calls were recorded from the beginning of the lockdown on 30 March until 15 July (1,312 in April, 915 in May 2020, 776 in June, and 446 from 1 July to 25 July), with an overall average increase of over 70 per cent compared to the pre-lockdown trends. About 94 per cent of the calls are from women.