HIV infection spikes among young women

The increasing number of unintended pregnancies among young girls in the country has worsened teenagers' vulnerabilities to contracting HIV, a National Aids Council(NAC) official has said.

According to the latest report by NAC, young girls form the bulk of new HIV infections in Zimbabwe.

Last year, many teenagers who were out of school following the closure of learning institutions to control the spread of Covid-19 got pregnant.

Speaking in the National Assembly, chaired by MDC-T proportional representation legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, school heads and teachers raised concern over the increasing number of learners falling pregnant – especially those sitting for ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations.

According to the Committe report, the sharp surge in unintended pregnancies among young girls during the prolonged closure of schools last year, has been attributed to unsafe sexual practices, which also exposed them to the risk of contracting HIV.

Data from NAC shows that youths aged 15-26 contribute 42 per cent of the total number of new HIV infections in the country.

“We need to scale up and ensure sustained supply of free condoms to prevent HIV, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies,” said Mr Gwembe,  Headmaster at Shokoni High School in Masvingo .

He added that the depressing economic times, especially for impoverished families, may have increased girls’ vulnerability to engage in transactional sex for economic benefit, thus increasing their risk of being infected with HIV.

Zimbabwe has 2 million people living with HIV and statistics show that women bear the biggest HIV burden.

The official said there was a decline in the number of people tested for HIV and those counselled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 restrictions, which made it difficult to access their healthcare needs.

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