Outward migration is fuelling HIV incidence rate in Matabeleland North among other factors aiding the spread of the virus in the province, the National Aids Council (Nac) has said.
The province is predominantly rural with only 8% percent being urban.
Addressing journalists on a tour of the province ahead of this year’s World Aids Day yesterday, Nac provincial manager Dingaan Ncube said the province had a 15,5% prevalence rate.
“The rate is relatively high compared to the national prevalence which stands at 11,1%. We are mainly experiencing high new HIV infections among young women,” he said.
Ncube attributed the phenomenon to partner separation where men go to neighbouring South Africa or urban areas in search of greener pastures.
“When they travel to South Africa, they usually do not follow proper measures on HIV prevention and management,” Ncube said, adding that Nac had initiated a number of interventions to reduce the worrisome incidence.
He said Umguza and Tsholotsho were the province’s HIV hotspots while sex work was predominant in Victoria Falls.
Speaking to journalists in Umguza district, district Aids co-ordinator Mongiwabesuthu Ngwenya said the district was recording the highest number of new infections owing to gold panners’ influence on poverty-stricken young girls and child-headed families.
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“The Sista-2-Sista programme has been discovered to be the best intervention to protect our young girls and women. The 10-24 age group is the most affected hence the need for them to be empowered through the scientific programme.
“Monitoring the girls after the programme is somehow difficult but the outcomes and testimonies from the communities based on their behaviour after training are encouraging.
“Those that come from the programme are in a better position in terms of sexually related decisionmaking as opposed to those that have not undergone it,” he said.
The district has a 0,27% incidence and 12,5 % prevalence rates.
Since 2015, PEPFAR has provided HIV prevention services to more than one million at-risk adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) between the ages of 10 and 24 through DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-free, Mentored and Safe) partnerships.
Nearly 24 000 AGYW received DREAMS services in 16 districts of Zimbabwe in FY2023 alone.
DREAMS support includes HIV prevention, pre-exposure prophylaxis to help prevent them from contracting HIV, economic strengthening initiatives, educational subsidies, and complementary services for orphans and vulnerable children.