Zambian President Urges Citizens to Accept HIV/AIDS as Reality
November 9, 2007
Many Zambians are in denial about the reality of their country's HIV/AIDS epidemic, President Levy Mwanawasa recently told the UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. "Our special challenge is that up to date, our people, especially in rural areas, have not come to accept the reality of AIDS, they think they have been bewitched," he said during Elizabeth Mataka's visit to Zambia.
Such beliefs cause some people to delay treatment - hence the need for stakeholders to promote HIV education, said Mwanawasa. Government, civil society, churches, and other entities must step up their efforts to mitigate the impact of the disease, he noted.
According to Mwanawasa, Zambia's shortage of health care workers is also negatively affecting HIV/AIDS control. Despite many attempts at improvement, an inadequate health infrastructure limits the government's ability to fight the epidemic effectively, he said.
Approximately 1 million of Zambia's 12 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, said Mwanawasa. Over 200,000 of these are in need of free antiretroviral treatment, but so far just more than 100,000 are actually receiving it. Of this 100,000, 7,000 are children, the president said.
Already, more than 90,000 Zambians have died of AIDS-related diseases, leading to the sad phenomenon of households headed by children. "Children are being infected with the virus through mother-to-child transmission, and about half of them die before their second birthday," he added. "About 130,000 children are in this predicament."
Xinhua News Agency