By Moses Ziyambi
Chiefs in Masvingo province have thrown their weight behind efforts to tackle the HIV / AIDS pandemic in their communities, committing themselves to actively encouraging their subjects to go for testing.
Speaking at a recent engagement meeting organised by the Community Based Aid Programme (CBAP) at Masvingo District Administrator (DA) offices, chiefs admitted they can play a central role in shaping attitudes and fighting for behavioral change as well as campaigning against the stigma.
“We want to be involved in the efforts to fight the spread of the disease and work to encourage men to go for testing with their pregnant wives. We don’t want a situation where only women go for the testing, while their husbands remain,” said Chief Chikwanda.
Many chiefs who participated said it was high time for them to complement the work being done by civic groups like CBAP and government through coming up with local based solutions to stop the spread of the virus.
“Let us restore morality and the innocence of children. Let us look at how we can delay our children’s exposure to sexual matters in these days of smartphones,” said Mugaviri Shumba who is Chief Shumba.
Headman Gurajena, Mangwanya Gurajena called on chiefs to be involved in matters of community mobilisation against HIV, saying they are the centerpiece of their communities.
“When relief organisations come, they stand a better chance of success if they rope us in because our voice carries weight,” he said.
Director of CBAP, Samuel Mhungu pleaded with chiefs to use their influence and authority to stop gender based violence and child marriages.
“We are certain that if our chiefs take a stand against gender based violence and child marriages, we will see a change. With your authority, you can use every public gathering to campaign against the stigma while encouraging couples to go for HIV testing and treatment,” said Mhungu.
Meanwhile CBAP, a Christian organisation with close relations with the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe (RCZ) is expanding its Community Mobilisation for Improved Access to Care and Treatment.
Among other programmes, the organisation is also promoting the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) by giving material support to health institutions