EMELDA MWITWA, Lusaka
UNITED Nations Resident Coordinator Janet Rogan has called on men in Zambia to come out and be tested for HIV so that they, too, like their female counterparts, can be treated if need be.
Ms Rogan noted that pregnant women and girls are normally tested for HIV during antenatal, therefore men should also come out and be tested.
Speaking at the launch of the Zambia National Health Strategic Plan 2017-2021, she wondered why men were not coming out to know their health status by way of testing for HIV.
Ms Rogan who says she is aware of her HIV status, advised that not knowing one’s status does not mean that one does not have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“Every woman or girl in this country who becomes pregnant will be tested so that she can get the right treatment for herself and her child. So that’s one half of the country potentially taken care of in any case over time,” she said.
“So, is this an issue mainly of the men in Zambia? What is it about, gentlemen, that you don’t want to know the state of health of your own body? For any one of us, not knowing our status does not mean we are not infected. It just means we don’t care and don’t know how to protect our health. Shame on ignorance, shame on not knowing, that is true immorality. Ladies and gentlemen, I know my status – do you?”
Speaking on the back of President Lungu’s announcement last Tuesday that HIV testing and treatment will be mandatory, Ms Rogan said knowing one’s HIV status was an important thing because HIV can be a killer.
However, she hopes that the new HIV counselling, testing and treatment policy will come with guidelines for health practices so as to protect human rights.
Basically World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines emphasise consent, confidentiality, counselling, correct test results and connection to HIV prevention, treatment and care.
The WHO and UNAIDS have come in in support of the new HIV counselling, testing and treatment policy and have pledged technical support and guidance to Zambia.
And Ms Rogan urged Zambians to rise above stigma and fear to take an HIV test so that doctors could decide the treatment for any illness.
She said it is important to be tested so that if need be, one can get treatment for one’s sake and for that of their sexual partners and children.
“HIV can be a killer if you are infected and do nothing about it. And a dead parent is no use to a living child,” Ms Rogan said.
President Lungu announced that Zambia will now make HIV testing in public health facilities mandatory during the first national HIV/AIDS Test, Counsel and Treatment Day last week.
The matter has since raised debates, with the opponents seeing it as an infringement of human rights.