GOVERNMENT has attributed the major challenge to the HIV/AIDS response
in Southern Province to the high rates of new infections among the young population aged between 15 and 24 years.
Provincial Deputy Permanent Secretary Douglas Ngimbu said the rate of new infections among young people was currently standing at 40 per cent.
‘‘This can be seen in the high number of pregnancies among school girls. No doubt, this is a tip of an iceberg and a ticking time bomb,’’ Mr Ngimbu said.
He was speaking in Choma on Thursday at the dissemination workshop of findings of the ‘Know Your HIV Response’ pilot study in the province.
The study was conducted by Institute of Economic and Social Research of the University of Zambia (UNZA) in collaboration with the National HIV/AIDS Council (NAC).
He said the HIV prevalence among young people in the province according to the Zambia Demographic Health Survey was 14.5 per cent representing 15.8 per cent women and 13.2 per cent men.
Mr Ngimbu said Livingstone City alone had the highest HIV prevalence in Zambia at 25.3 per cent followed by Mazabuka District with 18.4 per cent.
Choma, Kalomo, Kazungula, Siavonga and Monze Districts all had 15.7 per cent which was above the national average of 14.3 per cent.
He said the province and Zambia at large, required a strengthened, well-coordinated and effective response to HIV/AIDS which Government was tackling through the Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP).
‘‘We all need to help remove structural barriers that make HIV interventions hard to implement, by dealing with deeply rooted socio-economic issues such as poverty, gender inequality and marginalisation,” he said.
Mr Ngimbu said the increased cases of pregnancies among school girls had disturbed Government.
He said investing efforts in comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health education had potential for correcting the situation to enable girls in schools access quality education.
NAC director of programmes, Harold Witola said the study underscored the presence of HIV/ AIDS as a threat to current and future development of Zambia.
He said the study was aimed at providing answers to key coordination questions such as who are the implementers of HIV prevention programmes in the province, who are being targeted, reached and the challenges facing HIV/AIDS programmes.
Dr Witola said the province was not traditionally practicing male circumcision, a situation which had contributed to the increase of HIV/AIDS as compared to other areas like Northern Province.
He said Government’s recent launch of national male circumcision would encourage men in Southern Province to access the service.
Times of Zambia