The Ministry of Defence has launched an HIV/AIDS policy for the defence forces which provides guidelines on how best to continue defending the nation despite the ravages of HIV/AIDS on the military personnel.
The policy caters for the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force (ZAF), and the Zambia National Service (ZNS).
Launching the policy at Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC) in Lusaka today, Defence Deputy Minister Elijah Muchima observed that military personnel were more vulnerable to contracting HIV because of the nature of their job.
The military carry out duties that demand high geographical mobility in adventurous environments with long periods of absence from their homes, thereby increasing circumstances in which they can contract and transmit HIV.
Mr. Muchima said such an exposure would have negative effects on the Zambia Defence Forces’ combat preparedness if left unchecked.
He said combat preparedness in the military depended on the mental and physical fitness of the combatants, which he said could only be achieved if health standards among military personnel were not compromised.
“The impact of HIV and AIDS is felt more in the military than any other organisation because it is dependent on Zambian youths and citizens for its personnel,” he said.
Mr. Muchima hoped that the HIV/AIDS policy that has just been launched would provide a suitable environment for the military to achieve desired results.
The policy provides the framework for addressing the HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB) situations in the military and outlines causes and factors that perpetuate transmission, including the debilitating effect on the Zambian defence force personnel and their families.
The policy further outlines workable interventions against HIV/AIDS at work places in operational areas such as peace keeping missions abroad and cantonment in general.
The Deputy Minister said the policy was well designed as it gave a lot of attention to areas such as care, prevention and support on people that were affected.
He thanked cooperating partners who provided various forms of support in formulating the Zambia Defence Forces HIV/AIDS policy.
Earlier, Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary, Medson Lisati said the HIV/AIDS pandemic has heavily reduced work forces and reversed many years of economic and social progress in the country.
Mr. Lisati said the military personnel have not been spared by the pandemic hence the need to put up measures that would address the effects of HIV/AIDS.
“A lot of military personnel have died from HIV and AIDS related conditions in the last three decades,” he noted.
Zambia recorded the first case of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s. Today, the pandemic has become a major challenge to both the public health and social economic development of the country.
Currently, about 14 per cent of the country’s adult population, which is between the ages of 15 years and 49 years, is infected with HIV, of which 18 per cent are female while 13 per cent are male.