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Kenneth Kaunda promotes voluntary testing
Sunday 16 January 2005
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ZAMBIA: Kenneth Kaunda promotes voluntary testing


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



©  IRIN

Former President Kenneth Kaunda

LUSAKA, 26 March (PLUSNEWS) - In a dramatic gesture that AIDS activists hoped would boost their campaign to raise awareness about voluntary counselling and testing, former president Kenneth Kaunda took a public HIV/AIDS test on Tuesday.

This was a particularly poignant moment for Kaunda as his 30-year-old son, Masuzyo, died of AIDS-related complications over a decade ago.

"When my wife and I lost the young man to HIV/AIDS, he left behind six orphans for us to look after," the 78-year-old told a meeting of activists in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

"By taking this test, I am trying to show that HIV/AIDS is a serious matter which must be fought with all the seriousness at our disposal," Kaunda said before leading scores of activists across the central business district to take his test at an HIV/AIDS counselling and testing centre.

Following his retirement from active politics, the former president set up the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation to lead an anti-AIDS crusade targeted at the youth and centred around an awareness campaign and the support of vulnerable children.

Medical experts, who agree that Zambia's fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic will remain unresolved for as long as the majority of people do not know their HIV/AIDS status, applauded Kaunda's move to publicise his HIV-status.

"People who know their HIV-status are more likely to change their behaviour to protect themselves and others," said Health Minister Brian Chituwo. "Voluntary counselling and testing also helps to break the stigma linked to HIV/AIDS and provides a link to care and support services for those who are HIV-positive".

Since the early nineties, the government and a loose network of NGOs have together established 54 voluntary counselling and testing centres across the country. However, only 160,000 of the over one million people believed to be HIV-positive know their status.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, condom use among the sexually active remains disturbingly low. According to AIDS Alliance, a USAID-funded NGO, only 37 percent of men and 27 percent of women in urban areas used condoms in 1998. Condom use was markedly lower in the rural areas, where 27 percent of men and 17 percent of women used them.

Zambia has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, with an estimated 20 percent of its 10,3 million people believed to be HIV-positive. According to the ministry of health, Zambia had around 520,000 AIDS orphans in 1999. That number is expected to rise to 895,000 by 2009 and to 974,000 by 2014.

"This is a crisis of grave importance," Chituwo said. "Our target is to increase the number of people who have tested for HIV/AIDS to at least 1,5 million over the next five years".

That may not be an impossible ambition - the Society for Family Health, another AIDS NGO, claims to have sold 63 million male condoms since it was established in 1991, and some 250,000 of the more recently introduced female condom.

There are already indications that an aggressive awareness programme centred around voluntary counselling and testing can slow down the rate of HIV/AIDS infection. Recent studies by the ministry of education suggest that the rate of HIV-infection among teenagers aged between 15 and 19 has slowed down from 25 to 15 percent.

"The youth are delaying the start of sexual activity and many are choosing to abstain from sex altogether. Among those who decide to indulge in sex, condom use is increasing. This is tremendous news," Chituwo said.

[ENDS]


 
Recent ZAMBIA Reports
Second-class women left behind in access queue ,  17/Dec/04
Interview with Minister of Health Dr Brian Chituwo ,  16/Dec/04
Inexpensive antibiotic offers hope to HIV positive kids,  19/Nov/04
Manufacture of anti-AIDS drugs set to begin,  17/Sep/04
Activists concerned over drug shortages in ARV roll-out,  12/Aug/04
Links
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
Sida Info Services
Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le SIDA, la tuberculose et le paludisme
Le Réseau Afrique 2000

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