'12pc of Zim couples HIV sero-discordant'

HARARE - At least 12 percent of couples in Zimbabwe are HIV sero-discordant, a situation believed to be an epicentre of HIV transmission.

A sero-discordant relationship, also known as “magnetic” or “mixed-status”, is one in which one partner is infected by HIV and the other is not.

Elizabeth Magada, counselling manager for University of Zimbabwe-University of California San Francisco Collaborative Research Programme (UZ-UCSF), said the situation has proved to be problematic in fighting the epidemic locally.

“Zimbabwe’s HIV discordance rate is at 12 percent today from the total country’s population which mean varimo and sero-discordance therefore remains a serious epicentre of HIV transmission,” said Magada during an HIV prevention research update meeting in Harare recently.

An estimated 10 percent of the country’s 13 million people are HIV positive. Official statistics show that about 57 000 new infections were recorded last year.

Magada said partners should desist from relying on the status of their spouses as they are sometimes misleading.

“All over the world, 20 to 50 percent of couples may be in an HIV discordant relationship, sometimes unknowingly,” Magada said.

“They think if one partner goes for testing, that result is representative of them and yet results can be different.

“You can only know your status by being screened. It also helps because you can be enrolled early for treatment.”

Magada said a global study carried out between 2006 and 2011, in which Zimbabwe participated, proved that treatment can be used for prevention in sero-discordant couples.

“Results from the study focused on treatment as prevention saying early initiation of patients on anti-retroviral therapy reduces the chances of transmitting HIV infection to the partner by 96 percent,” she said.

Magada said the scenario is also pushing divorce and domestic violence cases up.

“The others were lost to sero-conversion of the partner becoming HIV positive, deaths and loss to follow-up,” she said.

“Some relationships ended because there were lot of marital discords among them. Maive nekurwa nekurovana kwakawanda (There was a lot of fighting) because of HIV,” she said.

In latest HIV interventions, husbands are encouraged to accompany their pregnant wives for HIV screening.

But Angela Mushavi, national coordinator for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), said only 17 percent of pregnant women are accompanied by their partners when seeking ante-natal services.

 

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