Rural dwellers shun VCT centres

ZIMBABWE: Rural dwellers shun VCT centres

©  PlusNews

More people visit VCT centres in the urban areas

HARARE, 20 Oct 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - Few rural Zimbabweans are using the Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centres, according to the latest Zimbabwe Human Development Report.

The US-based NGO, Pact, recorded only 50 to 108 visitors a month at two of its VCT centres located at the Regina Coelli Mission in Manicaland province and the St Theresa's Mission in Masvingo province.

"To go for testing takes courage - a person's perception of their risk to exposure is what drives them. If we get 100 in one month, that's great," Choice Makufa, director of Pact told PlusNews.

Pact's VCT centres are located at mission hospitals because "faith-based organisations reach out to the most vulnerable people, who feel comfortable with them," said Mafuka. To attract more visitors to the centre, the NGO also offers Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPCT) treatment, access to home-based care, treatment of opportunistic infections and links to services such as birth registration and writing a will.

The Zimbabwe Association of Church Hospitals uses a similar approach at its 10 rural centres, as does the government at its rural district hospitals.

But getting people interested in the programme requires a great deal of community mobilisation by trained volunteers, Makufa explained. Emedie Gunduza, an advocacy officer of the Women and AIDS Support Network, said at some of the mobile PPCT points outside the capital, Harare, people came forward in large numbers if food baskets were on offer but, generally, were not keen on testing "for the sake of it".

VCT uptake in the urban areas was more impressive. Condom manufacturer Population Services International (PSI), which runs 20 VCTs or New Start Centres located mostly in the towns, showed that their larger centres attracted 2,000 to 3,600 visitors per month, while smaller centres attracted 100 to 800.

Karin Hartzold, PSI's HIV/AIDS advisor, said advertising, promotions and sponsorship of a popular television show centred on testing and living positively with the virus had helped to popularise the VCT programme.

However, only 32 percent of the population lives in urban areas, where people are better informed about HIV issues. The Human Development Report of 2003 said the border, mining and commercial farming areas, where prevalence was known to be highest, remained neglected.

NGOs working in the field of HIV/AIDS believe Zimbabwe's fledgling antiretroviral (ARV) rollout programme could increase VCT uptake considerably if the centres were made an entry point for access, and if the availability of treatment was speeded up. Currently, free ARVs are available only to the very sick at a few urban government hospitals.


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