Zambia's HIV/AIDS Council Director Urges People to Be Tested on National Voluntary Counseling, Testing Day

Alex Simwanza, director of programs for Zambia's National HIV/AIDS Council, in an interview ahead of Zambia's national voluntary counseling and testing day, which was scheduled for Monday, said the country's testing rates are too low and urged people who do not know their HIV status to be tested, Zambia's The Post reports.

Simwanza added that about 1.5 million Zambians have been tested for HIV and that the country's HIV prevalence is 16%. He also said that people should "go for VCT and know their status, so that whichever side they find themselves on, they will be able to take precautionary measures." Simwanza added that knowing one's status is "power." People who are found to be HIV-positive will receive treatment and support, and people who are HIV-negative will be "able to maintain their negative status," Simwanza said. He added that HIV testing and counseling "play a critical role in HIV prevention by helping people to cope with the disease and avoid infecting others."

According to Simwanza, VCT day calls for a partnership among parliament, traditional leaders, civil society, the private sector and communities to "mobilize" people to access HIV services and to scale up HIV treatment and prevention programs. He added that HIV prevention programs should include a multifaceted, integrated approach to reach the largest number of people with a combination of information and services.

Abisheck Musonda, executive director of Community Youth Mobilisation, said that the national testing day is important in HIV prevention and in ensuring access to treatment, care and support. Musonda added that the day would be "meaningless" if efforts are not made to provide testing and counseling to people living in rural areas. Musonda said the majority of HIV-positive people living in rural areas are unaware of their HIV status and called on the government to make HIV testing and counseling "available to the rural community" (Noyoo, The Post, 8/27).

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