Youths and HIV prevention in Zimbabwe: Keeping the window of hope open

Zimbabwe recorded a decrease in HIV prevalence from 24,6 percent to 20,1 percent, and there is evidence to conclude that the decline was partly due to lower rates of new infections among young people. However, the access to comprehensive information on HIV prevention may be hampered by church institutions that preach abstinence.”In order to be successful, youth must be empowered to take the lead in HIV prevention campaign”, is the message of Farai P. Mahaso of the, Batanai HIV Support Group in Zimbabwe (Partner of FEPA).

Farai Mahaso sees a very encouraging development amongst youth: is increased risk awareness amongst youths. Young people tend to go for voluntary testing: At one particular testing centre in Chiredzi I was told that 75 percent of their clients were young people, some of school going age. For many young men it is no longer cool to sleep around, and your peers expect you to use a condom. These are new positive trends that need to be strengthened.

It is important to involve young people in the design and implementation of youth programs for them to be successful. Special emphasis in youth HIV prevention programs school be given to the girl child who is most affected by the HIV pandemic: Four out of five new infections in the 15-24 year old age group in Zimbabwe are among girls, some due to sexual abuse by HIV positive older men and women. (Bulletin von Medicus Mundi Schweiz Nr. 101, Juni 2006)

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