By Chanda Katongo
Monday, December 5, 2011
Zambia has one of the world's worst cases of HIV, and women and girls suffer a higher rate of infection. Health activists say harmful cultural practices – such as the myth that having sex with a virgin can cure AIDS – must be targeted by prevention programmers.
Viola Morgan, Zambia country director of the United Nations Development Program, says future programming must go beyond teaching girls and women about HIV. Girls and women, she says, must start helping to design HIV-prevention programming so their own needs can be known and met.
Luo and Morgan both spoke at Zambia's first HIV-prevention convention for women, held in August in Lusaka.
Many here hope that President Michael Sata, who took office at the end of September, will accelerate the country's anti-HIV programs. At the convention, Sata released a statement saying that HIV threatened the economic success of Zambia and that the nation needed to make HIV prevention, palliative care and treatment a priority. He added that the government was determined to increase budgetary allocations to the health sector and assured the nation that anti-retroviral drugs would be in stock.
Clementine Mumba, executive secretary for a network of antiretroviral drug users, says she has lived with HIV since December 1998.
"I took myself to the hospital when I suffered from TB and, even then, I was looking healthy and fit to move on my own and have maintained this," Mumba says. "Once in a while, I get some flu, coughs, chest pains, but I have never suffered from malaria since 1998."
She wants the government and other institutions involved in HIV prevention to start supplying women and children with food supplements, as most female-headed households in Zambia have inadequate food.
Mumba also argues that the long lines at the treatment centers must end.
"We spend half a day or the whole day at the clinic each time we go for reviews or refills," she says.
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Chanda Katongo reports for Global Press Institute's Zambia News Desk. She aims to address issues to positively influence the lives of young people.