FIRST Lady Christine Kaseba says there is need for continued talk about homosexuality because it may derail the progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS if not properly tackled.
Speaking in Lusaka on Tuesday night during a reception held in honour of cooperating partners, Dr Kaseba said the country has seen a 51 percent reduction of HIV new infections.
“We need to start talking a lot about the salient issues like men having sex with fellow men. I am concerned about the vulnerability of women who sleep with men that also have sex with other men,” Dr Kaseba said.
She said with a national HIV prevalence rate of 14.3 percent, Zambian women carry the burden of a higher HIV prevalence rate of 16 percent compared with the 12 percent for men.
Dr Kaseba said diseases such as cervical cancer that have a direct and fatal link to HIV continue to claim the lives of many women.
She said, however, that the pilot cervical cancer vaccination project which was introduced in May this year has reached 80 percent of its target for both school and out- of-school-girls.
Dr Kaseba said although much more needs to be done to effectively integrate cervical cancer screening into HIV services and build the capacity to screen, refer and treat, there has been rapid expansion of cancer screening and treatment nationwide.
“I would like to urge UNAIDS and the board members to use your influence on policy-making and forging stronger partnerships at a global level to fight these challenges,” she said.
And UNAIDS deputy executive director Jan Beagle said the importance of multi-stakeholder engagement and multi-sectoral approaches for effective AIDS responses has been well demonstrated in Zambia.
Ms Beagle said despite the achievement Zambia has made so far, the country still has one of the lowest HIV testing rates in the region.
“Testing for both sexes is low with only 20 percent of young men and 50 percent of young women being tested in 2009,” Ms Beagle said.
She said Zambia needs to be mindful of the marginalised groups that are unable to access the information and services they need to protect themselves.
“Between seven and 11 percent of new infections in Zambia occur in populations of men who have sex with fellow men, transgender persons, people who inject drugs and sex workers,” Ms Beagle said.
She said integration of human rights in the AIDS response is imperative and that ending new infections will not be possible without the attention to the social and legal contexts in which people live.