New HIV infections in Southern province worrying

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—-Government says the high rate of new HIV infections among young people between 15 and 24 years has continued to challenge HIV/AIDS response in Southern Province.

Southern Province Deputy Permanent Secretary, Douglas Ngimbu, says the rate of new infections among young people in the province, which is currently standing at 40 per cent, is worrying.

Speaking during the dissemination workshop of findings of the ‘Know Your HIV Response’ pilot study conducted in the province, Mr Ngimbu said there was need for various stakeholders to vigorously fight the pandemic in the province.

“This can be seen in a remarkably high number of pregnancies among school girls. No doubt, this is a tip of an iceberg and a ticking time bomb,” Mr Ngimbu said.

The study, which was conducted by Institute of Economic and Social Research of the University of Zambia (UNZA) in collaboration with the National HIV/AIDS Council (NAC), indicated that the HIV prevalence among young people in the province   was at 14.5 per cent divided as 15.8 per cent for women and 13.2 per cent for men.

The survey indicated that Choma, Kalomo, Kazungula, Siavonga and Monze districts all had 15.7 per cent which was above the national average of 14.3 per cent.

Mr Ngimbu, however, 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.

Mr Ngimbu said the increased cases of pregnancies among school girls had the potential to wipe off the future generation of the nation.

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).

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 for life.

And NAC director of programme, Harold Witola, said the study underscored the presence of HIV/AIDS as a threat to current and future development of Zambia.

Mr Witola said the study was aimed at providing answers to key coordination issues among various organisations implementing HIV/AIDS projects.