Andile Tshuma recently in Masvingo
THE National Aids Council (Nac) says the moonlight HIV testing seems to be paying dividends as more people are coming forward for HIV testing at night.
Nac Masvingo Provincial Manager, Mr Edgar Muzulu, told journalists on a tour of the province last week that the the night HIV testing was meant to benefit sex workers, truck drivers and artisanal miners who normally shied away from health services.
He said so far about 70 percent of HIV positive people in the province were aware of their status due to interventions such as moonlight HIV testing.
“We have realised that some people shy away or have no time to go for HIV and Aids testing during daytime hence the introduction of this night testing,” Mr Muzulu said.
He said the moonlight testing had proved popular with certain groups of people.
Masvingo province’s HIV prevalence rate is 12,8 percent and Ngundu area on the Beitbridge-Harare highway is one of the hotspots where night testing is being conducted.
Chivi District, however, has the highest HIV prevalence rate of 14,6 percent while Bikita has the lowest prevalence rate at 11 percent.
According to statistics from Nac, 138 208 people live with HIV in Masvingo province and 9 700 of them are children. The province has a population of 1,46 million.
Mr Muzulu said the key drivers of HIV in Masvingo are low uptake of condoms and multiple concurrent partners.
“We have early sexual debut at 13 to 19 years, which has resulted in the high positivity rate,” he said.
Mr Muzulu said it is not only sex workers who have benefited from night testing as more men also prefer being tested under the cover of darkness.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care through the support of its partners introduced the night testing in 2016 as part of measures to bring services to the people, demystifying HIV while breaking barriers that hinder people from getting tested for HIV.
The nation continues to grapple with challenges of openly talking about the health risks of unprotected sex.
Moonlight testing increases access to voluntary counselling and testing services and links clients to treatment and care while targeting high risk populations that are hard to reach.