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Drug abuse key driver of new HIV infections

Story by Thembinkosi Mangena

DRUG and substance abuse has emerged as a major threat to the fight against HIV and AIDS, amid revelations addicts are more likely to contract the virus.

Latest statistics from the National AIDS Council (NAC) indicate that drug abusers are 29 times more likely to contract HIV as compared to other individuals.

The statistics were released at the ongoing NAC Editors workshop in Chinhoyi this Thursday.

“People who take drugs and other illicit substances are 29 times more likely to contract HIV than people who do not use drugs. This is so because some use unsafe ways of injecting drugs into their bodies while being high makes them vulnerable through lessening their ability to make the right sexual choices,” said NAC’s director of AIDS and TB Unit, Dr Owen Mugurungi.

NAC also confirmed that more girls and young women are infected with the virus compared to their male counterparts.

“Statistics indicate that we have more girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 25 who are infected by the virus as compared to boys and young men. These girls and young women are usually infected by older men. As an intervention, we are therefore implementing various women empowerment programmes such as the DREAM, to lessen the vulnerability of girls and young women to infections,” added Dr Mugurungi.

Zimbabwe has, however, made notable strides in the fight against HIV and AIDS, with the country surpassing the World Health Organisation (W.H.O) 95-95-95 target by 2025.

“HIV remains a public health concern but the government is happy about the progress in fighting the condition. We have moved from a 13,6 percent prevalence rate in 2016 to just below 11 percent in 2023. We once reached a point when the prevalence rate was around 25 percent but today we have managed to meet the 95-95-95 target,” said the Acting Minister of Health and Child Care, Professor Paul Mavhima.

As it stands, 96 percent of HIV-positive people know their status in Zimbabwe, 99 percent are on Anti-Retroviral Therapy and 96 percent have their viral load suppressed.

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