Let's unite in fighting HIV/Aids

HARARE - Recent revelations that mining communities such as Umzingwane and tertiary institutions are fuelling the spread of HIV/Aids makes a sad reading against all the efforts being put by various stakeholders in fighting the scourge.

For the past two decades, Zimbabwe made significant strides in reducing new HIV infections and was slowly becoming a beacon of hope on the continent as the country was winning the war on the epidemic with limited resources.

However, the recent increase in Aids prevalent rates in young people, in mining communities and universities should spur us to work together and fight the disease.

For a country that ranks fifth among countries with the highest HIV/Aids prevalence rate in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations, we should all push towards zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination against HIV-positive people, zero Aids-related deaths, and zero mother-to-child transmissions.

While HIV/Aids cannot yet be cured, it is treatable and preventable. Medical science has come up with effective medications that have enabled care providers to slow, and in many cases prevent, the progression from HIV infection to Aids. Increasingly, humanity is “getting to zero” on this pandemic.

These efforts and results can be doubled if we all work together with unity of purpose in defeating the epidemic.

In this regard, the question has to be asked — what is the role of the religious community in the fight against HIV/Aids?

Zimbabwe is a highly religious country. In many areas, local churches and mosques have a prominent position within the community.

They are often well-respected and people still listen to religious leaders. If religious leaders have a good understanding of HIV and Aids, their response can set an example to the rest of the community.

Yet some religious leaders and organisations are unwilling to become involved in work with those affected by HIV/Aids. Usually, this is because HIV is wrongly viewed as a punishment from God on individuals who engage in ungodly behaviour. In some places, people who are known to be living with HIV are not welcome in places of worship.

We must challenge such discrimination against people who are HIV-positive and/or are living with Aids.

When HIV started to spread in the 1980s, it spread mainly among certain groups of people, including men who have sexual intercourse with men, commercial sex workers, and people who inject drugs.

This has often led to the view that HIV is a punishment from God on individuals.

However, HIV affects us all in some way and to some extent we are all at risk of contracting HIV. Only working together can help us defeat the epidemic.

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