——Government says it is saddened that only about 15 ;percent of people in the country know their HIV status.
Choma District Commissioner Bernadette Hamweemba says it shocking to note that most citizens in the country do not know their HIV/AIDS status.
Ms. Hamweemba says citizens should voluntarily go for free counselling and testing (VCT) at counselling centres to know their status’.
She said it is important that VCT also is integrated into existing maternal and child health services saying this is critical in the reduction of mother to child transmission of HIV or indeed the virtual elimination of mother to child transmission.
The District Commissioner said this during the commemoration of National VCT day which was held at Mbabala School yesterday.
The event was running under the theme: “reaching everyone everywhere with annual HIV counselling testing services”.
She said AIDS is one of leading causes of death in the region and that every effort should be made to reduce the spread of HIV.
“We also need to acknowledge that this will not be possible unless we step up very significantly our prevention efforts and also sustain, and in line with our commitment to universal access, expand our treatment programmes, we will not be able to do this unless people know their HIV Status, “she said.
Ms. Hamweemba noted that going for VCT has many benefits of which one is knowing one’s status allows the individual to take action to protect themselves against infection if negative or take action to access services if found positive.
She said that indicators have shown that HIV couples counselling and testing decreases the transmission of HIV by more than 60 percent within discordant couples and reduces sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies in all couples.
She further explained that mother to child transmission can be reduced or eliminated if people know their status so that they can access
services not just for a healthy HIV negative baby not for women themselves.
Several programmes have been embarked on in the HIV prevention, treatment, support and care in the country which has since
a drop in the prevalence rate of HIV from 16% in 2001 to the current 14.3 percent.