Zimbabwean Government to Launch Initiative Aimed at Fighting HIV/AIDS in Agricultural Sector

Zimbabwe's Ministry of Agriculture plans to launch a five-year initiative aimed at fighting HIV/AIDS in the country's agricultural sector, IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports. The plan will be coordinated by the agriculture ministry with help from the U.N. World Food Programme, U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and other organizations. It aims to garner financial and human resources to control the spread of HIV on farms in the country, reduce stigma associated with the disease, fight gender inequality and domestic violence, and increase access to treatment among HIV-positive people. The program will use an information system to facilitate access to medical care, assess the costs associated with HIV/AIDS and determine the farming community's susceptibility to HIV transmission. According to the agriculture ministry, the farming sector has become increasingly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because of the migration of workers during harvest, during which farmers for long periods of time stay at centers that "have been identified as hotspots for HIV" transmission. The ministry also said that absenteeism resulting from illness, funeral attendance and caregiving also has been increasing among the country's farmers. In addition, low literacy levels among farmworkers have made it difficult to spread HIV/AIDS messages effectively. Until recently, HIV/AIDS in farm communities primarily has been addressed by nongovernmental organizations, farmers' unions and HIV/AIDS service organizations. Gift Muti -- deputy secretary-general of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union, which represents some of Zimbabwe's 400,000 farmworkers -- said that she approves the plan but she added that poverty also is one of the primary reasons for the spread of HIV in the agricultural community (IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 11/16).


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