Stigma and discrimination directed at people living with HIV and Aids continue to stifle Zimbabwe’s otherwise successful fight against the pandemic.
These negative attitudes towards those infected by the wider community have limited the impact of HIV testing and treatment. Thousands of people continue to die needlessly because they wait until it’s too late to access treatment.
Early testing is crucial in HIV treatment and if all Zimbabweans were to know their status, zero infections would be possible.
It is against this background that the 181 Members of Parliament who took part in the voluntary public HIV testing and counselling last week must be commended.
For once our MPs made international news headlines for the right reasons and they deserve our compliments.
The initiative that also saw 48 male MPs getting circumcised is a brainchild of the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians against HIV and Aids (Zipah).
According to researchers, circumcision reduces female-to- male transmission of HIV by up to 60%, but must never be considered a magic bullet in the prevention of new infections.
Circumcision is part of a prevention package that must include the tried and tested methods such as abstinence, protection and being faithful to one partner.
The response by the MPs was encouraging and Zipah must seize on the momentum to strengthen its awareness programmes.
The fact that Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo went on to disclose their HIV negative status must be considered a bonus.
But the campaign would only be considered a resounding success if those who tested HIV positive revealed their status too to help demystify HIV.
Zimbabwe is short of role models in this area and the MPs who went for HIV testing and counselling on Friday could fill that void.
Given that 14% of the Zimbabwean population is infected by HIV, it is logical to expect that we have MPs living with the virus.
Aids affects everyone regardless of social standing and it would be useful if people in leadership positions who are living with the virus made their status public.
Besides going for public HIV tests, MPs also have to lead exemplary lives by shunning promiscuity.
Some of the legislators have been in the news lately for the wrong reasons and it is such behaviour that will negate the gains that Zipah has made in fighting the pandemic.
Other prominent members of the legislature such as ministers who were not part of the group that took part in the public tests must also consider lending a hand.