Women consent to HIV screening

EDITOR — In response to an article published in your newspaper: “Pregnant women resists HIV screening”, on Tuesday January 7, 2014, we would like to express our appreciation for raising awareness of the importance of pregnant women being tested for HIV.

However, we feel the headline is misleading and inaccurate.

The majority of pregnant women in Zimbabwe are not resisting HIV screening. In fact, the 2012 Annual report of the Prevention of Mother to Children Transmission Programme within the Ministry of Health and Child Care indicates that 95 percent of pregnant women seeking antenatal care were tested for HIV and receiving their results .

The article highlights the challenges and impact of not reaching the remaining 5 percent of pregnant women who are not being tested for HIV. 

It is unfortunate that the few pregnant women (5 percent) who are not being tested are influenced by socio-cultural factors, including fear of rejection and associated stigma and discrimination.

Unfortunately, if the pregnant woman and her partner are not aware of their status, they cannot access the available treatment. 

With education and positive support of families and communities, it can be a reality that all HIV pregnant women are tested and receive the treatment they need for their own health and to prevent the transmission of HIV to their infants.

Male partners should be tested alongside their partners, so that prevention and treatment strategies can be taken as a couple.

We all have a role to play in achieving the goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children and keeping mothers and families alive.

Barbara Engelsmann (Director, Organisation for Public Health Interventions and Development)

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