Robin Muchetu Senior Health Reporter
APPROXIMATeLY 42 percent of sexually transmitted disease cases in Zimbabwe are preventable if sound behaviour change strategies are implemented and monitored effectively with the assistance of local media.With the current HIV and Aids prevalence rate standing at 14,2 percent there is a need to ensure that behaviour change is taken as a serious preventative measure.
Visiting United States of America health expert Professor Muhiuddin Haider told journalists and Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) public relations officers during a two-day workshop held in Harare recently.
“Behaviour change programmes if implemented are the key to changing the face of HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe. About 42 percent incidences of these diseases are preventable if there is behaviour change among the population in this country,” said Prof Haider.
He said behaviour change is an important feature that needs to be tackled in HIV and Aids reportage from a community level for it to be highly effective.
Prof Haider said the most-at-risk populations need to be addressed on the importance of behaviour change through the most influential people that live among them.
“In many cases people relate to those who they view as role models, so when dealing with HIV and Aids there is a need to use these people that are an influence to them so as to send the message of behaviour change,” he said.
Population Services International Zimbabwe has managed to leverage support for its male circumcision campaign through popular figures in Zimbabwe such as poet and musician Albert Nyathi and radio personality, Thabani Gambiza.
On the down side, Prof Haider said the donor community has fallen short in advocating for behaviour change as seen by the current HIV prevalence rate that stands at 14,2 percent — a figure still regarded as too high.
He noted that donors have specific targets, budgets and timelines that they adhere to that makes it difficult to exhaust their efforts in some programmes.
“Donor assistance does not reach all places in a country; it is available for a limited amount of time and because of funding they have certain limits so it is important that the Health Ministry of this country puts concerted efforts to cover the gaps,” he said.