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ZAMBIA: University launches free ARV treatment on campus

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


Despite high levels of HIV/AIDS knowledge, students have been slow to change their behaviour

LUSAKA, 4 February (PLUSNEWS) - The University of Zambia (UNZA) has launched a programme to provide free antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to HIV-positive staff and students on campus.

According to UNZA vice chancellor Professor Robert Serpell, the HIV/AIDS epidemic had robbed the institution of qualified staff in recent years.

"The advent of the ARV treatment programme is an important response to combating the disease, as one can have his or her life prolonged and continue with school or a career," he said at the launch of the treatment programme last week.

Serpell called for students and staff to come forward for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), and make use of the ARV initiative if they tested positive. "I am optimistic we will have quite a big number come for treatment. From anecdotal reports, we are able to say the mortality rate is high," he commented.

He admitted that preconceptions would be a major obstacle preventing people from accessing the drugs. "Because of stigma we only have rough estimates, but we are certainly sure we are losing a lot of students and staff to the pandemic. One of our hopes is that once they know there is this problem, they will come for VCT."

The university is working with the Council for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) and will be using resources from the US President's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS (PEPFAR) to implement the programme.

"The funding will help us to treat about 500 students and staff. We haven't worked out the figures, but we know UNZA is not very different and, like every other community, the HIV prevalence is quite high," Dr Mary Shilalukey Ngoma, chairperson of the vice chancellor's standing committee on HIV/AIDS, told PlusNews.

"The reason we are guarding our people jealously is that they are a precious commodity," said Ngoma, who is also head of the paediatrics and child health department at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country's country's largest referral centre.

According to Ngoma, a study conducted on campus in 2004 revealed that despite high levels of HIV/AIDS awareness, "the gap between knowledge and practice is wide" and about half the student population was particularly vulnerable to HIV infection.


Recent ZAMBIA Reports
AIDS herbal remedies come under microscope,  20/Oct/05
Community benefits from free ARVs,  13/Sep/05
Agencies step in to address HIV/AIDS in prisons,  5/Sep/05
Civic groups call on MPs to be more proactive in HIV/AIDS fight,  1/Sep/05
HIV/AIDS affecting quality of education,  2/Jun/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Mothers and HIV/AIDS

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