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Declare HIV status, MPs challenged
March 2nd, 2012
Herald 02 March 2012
PRESIDENT Mugabe has challenged legislators to declare their HIV status to fight the stigma associated with the virus.
He bemoaned the loss of some Cabinet Ministers and public office bearers to the HIV/Aids pandemic.
The President said this while officially launching the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV and Aids in Harare yesterday.
ZIPAH is a network of legislators who have voluntarily committed themselves to fighting HIV and Aids.
So far, ZIPAH — which was formed in 2006 — has 175 legislators out of 300.
“You will agree with me that parliamentarians are certainly not immune to HIV and Aids and its consequences. I have witnessed the challenges that both they and our people face as a result of HIV and Aids and yet, I do not recall any lawmaker who has come out in the open about their HIV status.
“I therefore hope that ZIPAH will foster a conducive environment in which lawmakers could disclose their status and therefore not only support one another, but also the people they represent.” The President said while he was pleased that a number of MPs publicly tested for HIV in the past “we now want to see more of such public testing, which should in turn create a net positive effect and confidence in our people to do the same”.
President Mugabe said at his age (88), he had seen many people die of Aids, among them senior Government and party officials, and called for behavioural change.“I have seen a lot more perishing, not just in my extended family, but also in my political family as well. Comrades I have worked with perished; I sat with in Cabinet perished. We have not announced it, but I can tell you quite a number of them it has been HIV and Aids. I have seen economists die, teachers die, nurses die,” he said. The President warned that HIV and Aids was now “a gigantic problem” saying, “Kufa hakuna member”.
He said stigma and discrimination reversed gains achieved in the national response to HIV and Aids and urged legislators to fully use ZIPAH to fight the pandemic. President Mugabe said the launch of ZIPAH came at a time when there were calls for the leadership to exhibit and practice exemplary sexual behaviour change that steers the nation to an Aids-free generation. “By virtue of their office, Members of Parliament are regarded as role models whose power of influence is clearly unquestionable in society. As leaders, they need to be always exemplary in the communities that comprise their constituencies. But in saying this, it is disappointing to notice that there are some leaders whose behaviour is at odds with an HIV and Aids infested social environment,” President Mugabe said. He said ZIPAH should be the medium through which such issues are addressed. “We should certainly not let ourselves be the epitome of the immorality that we condemn. Let us hold each other accountable in the ways we espouse the objectives of ZIPAH,” President Mugabe added. He joked that it may be necessary for aspiring MPs to declare their HIV status before contesting elections, drawing laughter and “No, No, No” chants from the legislators.
The President said it was surprising that even Cabinet ministers who were supposed to lead by example have “small houses”.
“Ndisu zvigevenga zvacho,” he said. He said although circumcision was said to reduce chances of HIV infection by about 60 percent, it did not prevent infection.
“I am not sure whether these statistics are true. My fear is that when we say if you are circumcised you have 60 percent reward, it is as if to say if you do it you are in a better position to resist it. People may think that circumcision is now an instrument and they can go places. No, you can still have the disease,” he said.
About 420 000 people are on anti retroviral drugs while over 1,3 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe.