Women tops as men quiver at HIV tests

HARARE - They usually appear macho and all-conquering, but Zimbabwean men are turning out to be the weaker sex when it comes to health matters.

So lily-livered are Zimbabwean men that the majority of them cannot even muster enough courage to visit a health centre to check on their HIV status and other health issues, according to results of a recently released study.

Results of a long running community-based voluntary counselling and testing study shows that men are feeble participants in HIV/Aids issues and only get tested if services are brought to their doorsteps.

Women, on the other hand, are tops when it comes to HIV testing and other health matters.

Alfred Chingono, the principal investigator at the University of Zimbabwe’s College of Health Sciences said men are reluctant to travel to seek health services.

“Our study started in 2003 in Mutoko and showed that men are willing to take up HIV testing and counselling if they are brought to them,” he said.

Chingono said programme implementers need to be realistic about where they are going to reach and find men.

“If you take services to them, men will participant and seek health services. We are encouraging clinics to start initiating testing and counselling programmes that cater for men, like when they go out for immunisation and TB outreach programmes, they should incorporate HIV services,” Chingono said.

He, however, said the study shows that more men are changing their behaviour.

“Men who had several sexual partners and concurrent partners have changed their behaviour and view towards sex,” he said.  

Called Project Accept, the study is the first community-randomised trial to test a combination of social, behavioural and structural interventions for HIV prevention and to assess the impact of an integrated strategy at community level.

The four major interventions of the study were designed to increase access to voluntary counselling and testing and post-test services; change community attitudes around HIV awareness, particularly the benefit of knowing one’s HIV status; remove barriers to knowing one’s HIV status and increase the safety of testing and minimise the potential negative consequences of testing by providing various forms of support.

The study was conducted by the University of Zimbabwe-University of California-San Francisco Clinical Trials Units and was done in 14 communities since 2003.

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