The Sunday News
Walter Mswazie in Masvingo
AT least 800 women, mostly young girls, are treated for Sexually Transmitted Infections in Chiredzi every three months as the district continues to be among the hotspots for HIV.
The situation, officials said, is scuttling efforts by the Government to achieve zero infection and zero HIV-related deaths by 2030.
Masvingo National Aids Council provincial manager, Mr Edgar Muzulu said while there were incidents of STI infections across the province, the situation in Chiredzi was worrisome and called for robust interventions.
He, however, said Chivi was topping in HIV prevalence with a 14,6 percent, Masvingo urban and rural stands at 14 percent, Gutu 13,7 percent, Mwenezi 13 percent while Chiredzi had 11 percent.
“According to collected data between April and June this year, Chiredzi District recorded 822 STI cases, which is the highest, compared to other seven districts.
“After Chiredzi, we have Chivi which has 809 cases of STIs with most cases coming from Ngundu Growth Point, a hot spot for infections and is along Masvingo-Beitbridge highway.
“Mhandamabwe Growth Point along Masvingo-Zvishavane Road is also another spot where a lot of transactional sex is taking place involving young girls as young as 14 years old.
“In the same period under review, Gutu had 714 cases, Zaka 632, Masvingo urban accounted for 515.
“We are worried that young people, especially girls are getting infected with STI.
“Reports from our partners, that is Population Service Zimbabwe (PSI), New Start Centre and CeSHAAR also indicate that demand for the morning after pill is increasing.
“This is more worrying because it means there is too much unprotected sex going on among young girls.
“In Masvingo we get an upsurge of STIs when tertiary institutions are opened and the figures coincidentally decrease during semester holidays.
“As Nac we are therefore working together with our partners to strengthen the HIV prevention drive. We are focusing on the five pillars of HIV prevention, that is, key populations who include sex workers and truck drivers,” he said.
He said the HIV prevention pillars are Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC), condom programming, Sexual and Reproductive Health programmes and Pre-exposure Prophylaxis.
He said there was an increasing number of teenagers termed, Young Girls Selling Sex, especially in Masvingo town, Chiredzi, Nyika Growth Point, Jerera in Zaka, Ngundu and Chivi Turn-Off.
Mr Muzulu said the young girls are falling prey to older men who are prepared to pay higher fees in exchange for unprotected sex, thereby exposing them to STIs and HIV infection.