GOVERNMENT says the knowledge of HIV status can help people make decisions to protect themselves and their sexual partners.
Community Development, Mother and Child Health minister , Emerine Kabanshi, says Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) has benefits which are relatively cost-effective intervention in preventing HIV transmission.
Ms Kabanshi said those that test negative can have their minds put at rest and be encouraged to reduce their risk and be referred for appropriate follow-ups services and have their health monitored.
She was speaking in a speech read on her behalf by her deputy, Ingrid Mpande, at this year’s National VCT Day held at Chiweza Primary School in Nyimba District under the theme: “ Reaching Everyone, Everywhere with Annual HIV Counselling and Testing Services.”
Ms. Kabanshi noted that VCT programmes and early diagnosis play an important role in accessing potentially life-saving care.
“Individuals who learn of their positive status are also likely to reduce risk-taking behaviors, thereby reducing the risk of onward transmission or becoming with other sexually transmitted infections and can help in reducing conditions like cancer of the cervix,” she said.
And National AID Council (NAC) Chairperson, Bishop Joshua Banda, said for a long time, the country has stressed the importance of HIV testing as an entry point into Anti-Retroviral Therapy, positive living and adoption of HIV risk reduction behaviors.
Dr. Banda however, said while the country appreciated the increase in numbers of people who tested for HIV, during the National VCT Day, NAC demanded for the services to be carried out throughout the year taking advantage of readily available services in community based facilities.
“It is the desire of NAC as a national coordinating body of HIV response for us as a country to consolidate the gains of concerted efforts of the past three decades across the variety of prevention, care and support,” he said.
Dr. Banda also said the joint United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS ranked Zambia as one of the seven high performing countries in the world especially in the area of Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) which was currently at over 90 percent access rate.
He also challenged some pastors who are fond of discouraging those on HIV treatment to stop medication after being prayed for, adding that, God gave people drugs so that they can be healed and not to be discouraged.
“From a religious angle, I am aware of some wrongs that are going on. Some church leaders calling themselves prophets are discouraging patients from taking drugs after being prayed for forgetting that God has given us knowledge to come up with medicine, ” Dr. Banda said.
He called on people to report those telling HIV patients to stop taking drugs after being prayed for, to his office so that appropriate action can be taken.
Meanwhile, Nyimba District Community Medical Officer, Jonathan Chama, said during the VCT week, out of the target of 10, 000, 4, 052 males were reached and 6, 476 females were also reached, thereby beating the target that was given.
Dr. Chama also observed that 400 Voluntary Male Circumcision was also done, including family planning and cervical cancer testing.
And Chief Ndake thanked government for choosing Nyimba to host the event, saying, the hosting of the will put the district on the map to showcase the fight against the fight of HIV and AIDS.