UMGUZA district has recorded the highest number of new HIV infections in Matebelalnd North province due to a rise in gold rush artisinal mining in hotspot areas such as Ndabazinduna and Nyamandlovu.
The 2022 census report revealed that Umguza has a population of about 113 265 people in an area spanning into 6043 square kilometers.
However speaking during a media tour organised by the National Aids Council ahead of the International Aids Day slatted for Friday as well as the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASSA) which kick starts on 4 December in Harare, Umguza District Aids Coordinator (DAC) Mungiwabesuthu Ngwenya said the rural area is now HIV heavily burdened.
“According to the latest 2023 statistics, UMguza district now has an HIV incidence rate of 0.27 % which is highest in the whole of Matebeleland North. Some districts such as Nkayi has as low as 0.05 % HIV incidence rate,” he said.
The figures are worrying considering that Zimbabwe like the rest of the World, has a target of ending all HIV new infections to zero by 2030.
Ngwenya attributed the HIV situation in Umguza to mining and and partly farming.
“We have got scores of people coming from across the country to embark on gold mining areas here in places such as Nyamandlovu and Ndabazinduna. So these people coming from all over are overburdening the HIV situation in the district.
“There is also the other cause of the high HIV incidence rate which is farming. There are so many farming compounds here with a lot of people and so again, these have made Umguza an HIV hot spot,” he said.
Earlier on Matabeleland North provincial manager of NAC, Dingaan Ncube, revealed that Tsholotsho has become another HIV hotspot due to spousal separation as most male adults work in South Africa.
The HIV prevalence for Tsholotsho is currently at 22.9 % which is more than the national one of 11.1 %.
Binga has the lowest HIV prevalence at only 6.4 %.
“In Tsholotsho mot of the men work in South Africa where they are not documented. Because of that they cannot access HIV services in that country and when they come back home infected, they contribute to the high figures of HIV prevalence especially when then indulge in unprotected sexual activities with adolescent girls.
“We also have a problem in which because the province is mostly rural, its becomes difficult to communicate as we are left with mostly the traditional ways of communication on issues to do with HIV prevention like high condom use and treatment,” he said.
In order to solve the high HIV incidence rates and prevalence, Matabeleland North province has started implementing various programmes such as Sister to Sister and Brother to Brother programmes targeting young people aged between 10 and 22.
In these programmes, the young people are taken into groups of 30 each where they extensively receive training on HIV prevention and treatment.
In Mbembesi ward 3, Dorothy Mhlauli, the community HIV trainer of the young people told The NewsHawks in an interview that over 300 boys and girls have passed through her classes.
“It has helped to reduce new HIV infections because we talk of so many preventive use. We have also been able to reduce cases of early teenage pregnancies and marriages,” she said.
Headman Vanisha Zenzele Nkomo of Ward 3 Niniva said he has allowed the HIV programmes to go unhindered in the area under jurisdiction despite community challenges like stigma and patriarchy.
“We always encourage our people to participate in the programmes of HIV. At first some subjects did not understand it but due to continued engagements, we are now making strides of progress,” he said.
HIV related illness in Zimbabwe remains one of the largest cause of death of among adults of reproductive age and children hence the target to end all new infections by 2030.