Community volunteers help reduce HIV prevalence in Matabeleland South

The Chronicle

Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Mat South Bureau Chief
It is through the efforts of community volunteers like Mrs. Sifikephi Dube from Bulilima District that Matabeleland South Province is seeing a reduction in HIV prevalence.

Her work includes raising awareness about HIV prevention, treatment and living with the virus, while offering counseling to people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and related conditions such as tuberculosis.

Although Ms. Dube and other community volunteers have had to make do with minimal resources, their passion and commitment to the cause keeps them going.

“The work can be exhausting at times but it gives me great joy to see people living positively with HIV. Some would have come from a place of denial; others would have been on their deathbed but recovered thanks to our interventions,” Ms. Dube said.

She said, however, that transportation issues have been the biggest setback, as the district she operates in has six villages that need her attention.

“The service in which I work has six villages and I find it difficult to move around. The National AIDS Council recently donated bicycles to us and I am sure that I will be able to carry out my duties with ease in all the villages,” Ms. Dube said.

The third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3) aims to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, with experts saying this will be achieved when the number of new HIV infections and HIV-related deaths AIDS will decrease by 90% between 2010 and 2030.

So far, the rate of decline in AIDS-related deaths is on track while the rate of decline in new HIV infections has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in addition to other factors.

Matabeleland South Nac Provincial Director Mr Isaiah Abureni said his organization has recruited over 600 community volunteers who play a central role in HIV prevention programs in the province.

“Community HIV volunteers refer people who need services such as HIV testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis, among others, to health facilities across the province.

They play a critical role in HIV/AIDS. They also provide basic HIV prevention commodities such as condoms, lubricants and HIV self-testing kits to the communities in which they live. They also provide basic information to community members on communicable and non-communicable diseases related to HIV/AIDS such as tuberculosis and certain cancers,” said Mr. Abureni.

He said the province is receiving many dividends from the work done by community volunteers.

“We are seeing a reduction in the incidence of HIV in the province. It also indicates a reduction in prevalence in the province, although we still host the highest HIV prevalence in the country.

We attribute these positive reductions to some of the work done by our community volunteers. They are doing a really good job in our communities,” Mr. Abureni said.

Chief Masuku said the Covid-19 pandemic should not overshadow HIV/AIDS response programs as it would threaten the country’s goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

“The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has diverted attention from other diseases that we fight as a country.

In some areas, people now have a lax approach to preventive measures against HIV/AIDS. People need to understand that the start of the Covid-19 pandemic did not end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They must continue to protect themselves and take preventive measures against HIV/AIDS,” Chief Masuku said.

He said communities need to be reminded that HIV/AIDS still exists and that efforts to combat the pandemic must continue.

“It is important that people continue to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS as they did before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Let us not lose sight of how far we have come in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Chief Masuku. — @Yolisswa

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