JOURNALISTS have been asked to continue promoting voluntary testing of HIV/AIDS particularly encouraging men, who still lag behind women in knowing their status on the virus.
The call was made here by Executive Director (ED) of the Zanzibar AIDS Commission (ZAC), Dr Ahmed Mohammed Khatib, when he presided over the Media Reminder Workshop on their role in supporting the government’s initiatives to meet the global testing and treatment targets of 95-95-95 against HIV/AIDS’ by 2025.
It was a follow-up workshop on journalists’ coverage about the HIV/AIDS in the Islands, organised by ZAC with support from AMREF- Africa, Tanzania.
Dr Khatib said journalists remain key stakeholders in helping to motivate the community, especially men, to know their HIV status, which is important in controlling their health problem.
He said that it is important to focus on men at this time because they are still lagging behind women in accessing HIV services to test and know their health status, due to fear of getting negative results, which also leads to discrimination and stigma.
Dr Khatib mentioned other reasons behind men hesitating to go for HIV testing as lack of confidentiality and stressful long queue at the testing centres. He informed journalists that from October to December 2020, a total of 31,906 women were tested for HIV against 25,927 men in Unguja and Pemba.
“Other factors contributing to men not showing up for health check-ups include fear of getting infected, long waits for answers, the attitude of having risky behaviors in the lifestyle, not having any symptoms of HIV and AIDS and having a partner who tested negative,” Dr Khalid said.
He said as of December last year, a total of 7,020 people were living with HIV in Zanzibar where the proportion of women living with HIV and taking ARVS for women was 4,774 and men were 2,166, adding that 55 per cent of men in Zanzibar are aware of their HIV status out of which, only 64 per cent are on ARV medication.
He emphasised that men have a significant role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS as a large number of men are lagging behind in accessing HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment services and that the media should help motivate men so as to achieve the three 95s HIV global targets.
The targets aim to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by achieving 95 per cent diagnosed among all people living with HIV (PLHIV); 95 per cent on antiretroviral therapy (ART) among diagnosed; and 95 per cent virally suppressed (VS) among treated.
The Communications Coordinator from the Perfect Health Project (AMREF) Abubakar Ibrahim Msemo, urged journalists to write stories that will help the community to fight risky behaviors and help people protect themselves from new HIV infections and other serious illnesses.
This article was first published on DailyNews, Tanzania.