HIV stigma and gender inequality worry First Lady

AIDS in Zambia
First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba has observed that stigma and gender inequality between men and women remains one of the serious hindrances to eliminating Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and AIDS in Zambia.

And 41 men and women in Chongwe and Rufunsa districts in Lusaka Province have been trained as Lay Counsellors in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and AIDS.

The 41 individuals underwent a five-day training organized by the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS, Zambian Chapter in conjunction with the United State Aid.

Dr. Kaseba who is OAFLA Vice Chairperson in Southern Africa officiated and awarded certificates to the successful candidates and urged them to work hard and contribute towards having an HIV-free generation in Zambia and Africa as a continent.

The First Lady urged lay counsellors to ensure that all HIV positive pregnant women in the community access PMTCT services and ensure that babies in the community are born free from the deadly virus.

Dr. Kaseba observed that despite social awareness and sensitization on HIV and AIDS, stigma in the communities remains high causing the pandemic to be more widespread.

“It is sad to note that close family members continue to perpetrate stigma in the family, hindering men, women and children to seek medical care on time. The lack of support from community around breast feeding for positive mothers continues to be the cause of HIV positive mothers to be non-compliant to PMTCT guidelines,” the First Lady noted.

Dr. Kaseba further commended government for the efforts made in the eradication of cervical cancer in Zambia and urged parents whose children are in the category of being vaccinated to give consent so that their children could be vaccinated with the new drug which arrived in the country recently.

She dispelled myths that could be propagated by some people with intentions to cheat women that the human Papuloma vaccines have negatives effects.

And UNAIDS Social Mobilisation Advisor Jacqueline Makokha noted that each year, about 390,000 children are infected with HIV and as many as 42, 000 women living with HIV die from complications relating to HIV and pregnancy.

She noted that world leaders at a UN high level meeting in 2011 committed to ending new HIV infection among children by 2015 and saving the lives of mother.

She congratulated the trainees and urged them to utilize the training they have received to protect the future of Zambian children from HIV.

The First Lady and her entourage toured the cancer department at Chalimbana rural health centre before officiating at the PMTCT function.

Meanwhile, both Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II and Chongwe Member of Parliament Silvia Masebo commended the first lady for her efforts in ensuring that women and children access quality health services in the country by working closely with them.

The chieftainess noted that Dr. Kaseba is the only first lady in Zambia  who committed herself to serving the community unlike others whom she said concentrated on forming organizations that gave handouts to people.

The function was attended by Chongwe Member of Parliament Silvia Masebo, Lusaka Province Permanent Secretary Emelda Chola, Chieftainess Nkomenshya Mukamambo II, 9 Ministers’ spouces and senior officials from the Ministries of Health, Community Development Mother and Child health and members of the community.