Deputy PM Khupe,Speaker and MDC-T MPs disclose their HIV/AIDS statuses
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, Speaker of the House of Assembly Lovemore Moyo and seven MPs yesterday publicly disclosed their HIV statuses.
This was after they became the first group to participate in the HIV and Aids counselling and testing and male circumcision programme ever done by MPs in Africa.
The event, held at Africa Unity Square in Harare, was supported by the National Aids Council, United Nations Population Fund, Unicef, UNAids, USAid, Population Services International and the New Start Centre, among other organisations.
The other MPs have not had the courage to come forward. Khupe went on to give a touching testimony about her battle with cancer as well as her fears when she had to undergo the HIV testing on Wednesday this week.
“I was told to come for testing and I sat back and asked myself whether I was going to be able to do this. But on second thoughts I said I had managed to take cancer head-on and so even if I tested HIV positive, I said it did not matter and I decided to go for the tests.” said Khupe.
“I want to confess I was feeling jittery while I was being told the results, but I came out HIV negative and what I want to say to people is that let us be responsive to testing because if you wait until you are sick, the consequences are huge and tend to erode your family income,” She said.
She urged the youth to desist from indulging in sex before marriage saying there was nothing to rush for. Moyo told the gathering that MPs were giving a perfect example by taking the lead in HIV testing and male circumcision and urged other institutions and sectors like the Executive, Judiciary, captains of industry, religious leaders, the media and other influential people to follow suit.
“Yes, I can say publicly that I was lucky because all of us indulge in sex and therefore we are all target to this scourge and this event shows our MPs are committed and we want members of the Executive to do the same,” Moyo, who disclosed that he had tested negative, said.
Chairman of the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians on HIV and Aids Network (Zipah) Blessing Chebundo said the group HIV testing and male circumcision of MPs was unique in that it was the first of its kind in Africa.
“As MPs, we will encourage debate on issues to do with the epidemic and implement policies on issues of HIV treatment, care and support. As MPs, we encourage Zimbabweans to follow suit,” he said.
Other legislators who publicly revealed their statuses included Kadoma Central MP Editor Matamisa (MDC-T), Mbire MP Paul Mazikana (Zanu PF), Hwata Senator Rorana Muchihwa (MDC-T), Hurungwe East MP Sarah Mahoka (Zanu PF), Matobo Senator Sithembile Mlotshwa (MDC-T), Emganwini Senator Siphiwe Ncube (MDC-T) and Glen Norah MP Gift Dzirutwe (MDC-T), who all said they had tested HIV negative.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Gibson Mhlanga said 106 MPs were tested for HIV while over 40 male MPs had been circumcised and revealed the move would also benefit their wives as male circumcision would reduce HIV transmission risk by 60%, reduce cervical cancer risk in women, as well as the number of babies born with the HIV virus.
Other top officials who embraced the programme include Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Murisi Zwizwai, who was also circumcised.