AN HIV/AIDS activist, Princess Kasune Zulu has challenged Members of Parliament (MP) to take bold steps in testing for HIV/AIDS as this would help reduce the stigma, discrimination and fears associated with living with HIV/AIDS.
Ms Zulu, who is United Party for National Development Keembe MP, also urged her fellow lawmakers living with HIV/AIDS to publicly announce their status to encourage their electorate to go for Voluntary Counselling and Testing.
In what ‘appeared’ to be one of the most ‘touching’ and ‘keenly’ listened to maiden speeches, among MPs since creation of Parliament, Ms Zulu, has become the first law maker to publicly known to be HIV positive in the House.
Clad in an ‘eye-catching’ chitenge outfit , the MP seemingly ‘shocked’ other MPs as she happily disclosed that she has lived with HIV/AIDS since 1997, and was saddened that some people are not living ‘freely’ owing to fear to go for VCT to know their status.
“Not only did I lose my brother and parents to HIV/AIDS, I have been living with the HIV since I was diagnosed in 1997.Mr Speaker, history has been made as I have become the first law maker who is publicly known to be HIV positive, and the first female MP for Keembe constituency since Zambia’s independence in 1964,” she said as scores of MPs hugged her when the House went on a tea-break.
She was disappointed that many people, who have tested positive, were taking their medicines in secrecy due to fear of being stigimatised and discriminated.
The ‘fear’ to go for VCT, she said, should not to be the case considering strides being made in Zambia, and the fact that there was no family not being infected or affected to HIV/AIDS.
She has talked about her status worldwide to leaders like former American President, George W. Bush, leading to authorisation of US$15 billion that came to be known as President’s Emergency plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and the reauthorisation of the US$51 billion global fund for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
With disclosure of her status in Parliament, she was confident that it would serve as a ‘beacon’ of hope for those living with HIV/AIDS and other people that being positive was not a ‘death sentence’.
“Mr Speaker, it is for this reason that we as law makers and leaders have a great responsibility at hand to lead in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In so doing, we will be able to reduce the stigma that perpetuates in our society,” she said.
The nation, she said was counting on MPs to show leadership and work together in taking the necessary steps to support the Government’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
On children born with HIV/AIDS, the MP urged Government and other stakeholders to increase sensitisation to young people to appreciation their status with care and support.
In her constituency, she bemoaned the lack of development and called for an increment to Constituency Development Fund to rural constituencies like hers to speed up delivery of development.
She appealed to Government to build more clinics, upgraded road networks, increased beneficiaries of farming inputs, and adequate water provision in Keembe to uplift the welfare of her electorate.