Many Zambian Citizens Concerned About Future of Fight Against HIV/AIDS After Upcoming Presidential Election, Reuters Reports
Despite progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Zambia, some of the country's citizens are concerned that the disease will not be a priority of the next president, who will be elected on Oct. 30, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, Zambians have said that the two main candidates -- acting President Rupiah Banda and opposition leader Michael Sata -- have not openly discussed HIV/AIDS during their campaigns.
Clementina Mumba, chair of the Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign, said the candidates have remained silent on HIV/AIDS issues because of the stigma associated with the disease. Mumba said, "I am surprised not a single politician has declared he is HIV-positive, not even one minister or legislator has done that. This portrays a picture that HIV/AIDS only infects the poor." Mumba added, "During the election campaign, not a single candidate has said what they will do to tackle HIV/AIDS."
Reuters reports that more than one million of Zambia's 12 million people are HIV-positive. Ministry of Health spokesperson Cassius Banda said HIV prevalence among adults ages 14 to 49 declined to about 14% in 2007, down from 16% in the previous decade, and United Nations data reveal that nearly 56,000 people died of AIDS-related causes in 2007, down from 78,000 in 2001. However, advocates say that many more people die in their homes, unable to get treatment and unaccounted for because of the stigma attached to the disease. In addition, although the government said it has provided 170,000 people with no-cost antiretrovirals -- compared with 10,000 in 2003 -- scientific projections show that 370,000 people still are in need of the drugs. Access to treatment and a shortage of medical staff -- many of whom have migrated to the United Kingdom and other Western countries for better-paying jobs -- also pose issues to people living with HIV, and many Zambians say that they need more than no-cost antiretrovirals, Reuters reports (Shacinda, Reuters, 10/27).