THE State security sector has been hit hard by HIV and Aids and is struggling to provide adequate health care to its sick personnel, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda has revealed.
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
Sibanda made the revelations while opening the sixth uniformed forces health conference in Victoria Falls yesterday.
He said the rising morbidity and mortality rates had a negative impact on operations of the uniformed forces.
“It is, therefore, my fervent hope that this gathering of leading researchers, medical professionals, programme implementers and policymakers will share knowledge, research findings and experiences to influence policy and practice within the services, on how best to deal with affected members in an operational and indeed any other environment,” he said.
“The HIV prevalence rate in Zimbabwe currently stands at 14,7%, down from a peak of 30% in 1999. The age group mostly affected and which happens to be the reproductive age of 14 to 49 years, is also the group into which most of the military personnel fall. The epidemic is sexually driven with over 80% of infections being sexually transmitted. This poses a real challenge to the uniformed services because our deployments are almost always away from spouses while the majority of the members are in the sexually active group age.
“I strongly believe that this gathering should come up with resolutions that have a lasting solution to challenges faced by both the infected and the commanders on the issues of deployment both locally and beyond our borders.”
Sibanda said it was inspiring to note that Africa had made positive strides in addressing the HIV and Aids problem as more people were receiving antiretroviral therapy and other services.
He said so far over a million men had undergone voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) in Zimbabwe, as one of the measures to reduce new HIV infections.
“Male circumcision is common practice in many parts of sub-Sahara Africa for traditional, health and other reasons. Research has shown that the male circumcision reduces spread of HIV by 60%. Zimbabwe has adopted male circumcision as a tool to prevent the spread of HIV and has rolled out the programme nationally,” Sibanda said.
“Approximately, one million clients have been circumcised nationwide including members of the uniformed services. HIV prevention remains the most effective approach to curtail the new infections and minimizing the impact of the epidemic.”
Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, and Tanzania uniformed forces members are attending the conference which ends today.