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NAC intensifies HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns

Story by Yolanda Moyo

THE National AIDS Council (NAC) is intensifying efforts towards ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 through the implementation of various community-led initiatives to curb HIV infections

At the age of 15, Shalom Ncube (not her real name) from Mbembesi in Matabeleland North Province had little or no information about the dangers of engaging in risky sexual behaviours.

Early this year, she joined the Sister to Sister Programme, which is being implemented by the National AIDS Council (NAC) to educate young women and girls about sexual reproductive health rights.

Shalom and other young women in Mbembesi narrated how the programme has transformed their lives and society during a media tour organised by the National AIDS Council ahead of World AIDS Day commemorations on the 1st of December.

“I am a 16-year-old girl who used to see it as fashionable to have a lot of boyfriends. I did not know the dangers of risky sexual behaviours and the effects they had on my life. I joined the program sister to sister program in January this year and this has been a life-changing experience because l have been empowered with information on several sexual reproduction health rights and the need to self-respect myself,” she said.

The programme, which empowers 50 young women and girls yearly, is also being used as a tool to curb child sexual exploitation.

“With this programme our girls have been educated and there is a reduction in early marriages in the village. With this program our girls have realized the importance of education and remain safe from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies,” said Sister to Sister Programme mentor, Mrs Dorothy Mhlawuli.

“We have reaped the benefits of this programme in our village and we are confident to say that risky sexual behaviours have significantly reduced among our girls. We believe that the girls that are under this program are cascading information to their peers. This has been a positive development in our community we are grateful for the support,” said Village Head, Mr Vanisher Nkomo.

Umguza District has the highest number of new HIV infections in the province with illegal mining activities and farming operations being attributed to the rise in new infections

“Umguza district has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 12,5 percent with 0,27 percent of new infections. There are a number of issues attributed to the infections in the area such as illegal gold panning in the area and farming activities.

“The area is also known for female sex workers that operate around the illegal mining areas and farming compounds. Adolescent girls are the most affected in the area with some of the families being child-headed families. The Sister to Sister programme targets women from the age of 10-24 with the model working in the areas as we have recorded positive results. The aim is to empower the girls to be able to withstand HIV-related pressures in the community,” said Umguza District NAC coordinator, Mr Mongiwabesuthu Ngwenya.

The HIV population in Zimbabwe is around 1,3 million, translating to 11,8 percent of the national population.

This year’s World AIDS Day commemorations will be held in Victoria Falls ahead of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) which will run from the 4th to the 9th of December in Harare.

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