NAC strength­ens HIV in­ter­ven­tions amongst boys & men

Zim­babwe, through the Na­tional AIDS Coun­cil (NAC), has in­tro­duced a pro­gramme that tar­gets boys as the coun­try scales up its HIV in­ter­ven­tions, which have largely been tar­get­ing the fe­male pop­u­la­tion.

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NAC, through the use of Be­havioural Change Com­mu­nity Mo­ti­va­tors (BCCM), go door to door in var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties to ed­u­cate young boys and men on HIV. The aim of the pro­gramme is to re­duce new HIV in­fec­tions among ado­les­cent girls and young women. Th­ese have been on the in­crease in the past few years.

While pro­grammes such as Sis­ter to Sis­ter have been put in place to ed­u­cate girls and keep them busy through project be­ing of­fered un­der var­i­ous pro­grammes in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, noth­ing much has been done to reach out to boys and ed­u­cate them on their sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive rights.

Speak­ing dur­ing a me­dia tour in Mashona­land West, one of the Be­havioural Change Com­mu­nity Mo­ti­va­tors, Mrs Chipo Njenge said most men are ini­tially not keen on get­ting tested but through de­mys­ti­fy­ing the myths and mis­con­cep­tions around HIV, cir­cum­ci­sion and prostate can­cer, which are some of the ser­vices be­ing of­fered, some start show­ing in­ter­est and even en­quire about other ser­vices.

She also said most men are still shy­ing away from re­port­ing abuse, which is quite ram­pant in Seke Dis­trict.

“We are reach­ing out to men of dif­fer­ent age groups with our tar­get be­ing 16 men ev­ery month and the re­sponse has been pos­i­tive.

“It takes a lot to con­vince a man to ac­cess the ser­vices be­ing of­fered but we are see­ing more and more men get­ting in­ter­ested, es­pe­cially in vol­un­tary med­i­cal male cir­cum­ci­sion.

“Most men how­ever do not want to re­port about gen­der based vi­o­lence. We have seen a num­ber of cases and we hope that men will get to a point where they can speak out af­ter the out­reaches we are do­ing,” said Mrs Njege.

NAC Seke Dis­trict AIDS Co­or­di­na­tor Mrs Florence Nyan­doro said the pro­gramme seeks to lure more men to ac­cess sex­ual re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices as there is gen­er­ally low health seek­ing be­hav­iour among men.

“The teams are mo­bil­is­ing men to ac­cess HIV preven­tion ser­vices, in­clud­ing med­i­cal male cir­cum­ci­sion. The ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive is to re­duce new HIV in­fec­tions among ado­les­cent girls and young women,” she said.

“There are var­i­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions that were done that re­vealed that most of the new in­fec­tions that we have amongst young girls and women are be­ing caused by in­fec­tions in older men and this pro­gramme there­fore seeks to ad­dress those par­tic­u­lar chal­lenges,” added Mrs Nyan­doro.

The pro­gramme, which was in­tro­duced in July this year, has at­tracted more than 3 000 men and the com­mu­nity mo­ti­va­tors are tasked to reach out to at least 16 men ev­ery month. HIV screen­ing, vol­un­tary med­i­cal male cir­cum­ci­sion, prostate can­cer test­ing and gen­der based vi­o­lence coun­selling are some of the ser­vices be­ing of­fered un­der this pro­gramme.

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