Tomorrow, the 1st of December, the world will commemorate World Aids Day. The theme this year is ‘Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.’ As we are also commemorating 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence it becomes paramount to realise the correlation between Gender Based Violence and the prevalence of HIV and AIDS.
The greatest threat thus far to development, poverty alleviation and health today in Africa, still remains HIV/AIDS. The virus undermines human development objectives, therefore reversing the positive effects of national and regional development.
If we are to get to Zero, then society has to tackle Gender Based Violence (GBV). This is due to the fact that GBV directly and indirectly increases the vulnerability of everyone, but especially women and girls to HIV infection. In dealing with the issue of GBV in relation to HIV /AIDS a number of issues which play a significant role in the exacerbation of the pandemic need to be dealt with. These include gender inequality, poverty, economic stress and unemployment, lack of institutional support from police and judicial systems, alcohol and substance misuse, dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships characterised by power imbalances, conflict and inequality. It is crucial to note that as long as GBV exists, both men and women are more susceptible to HIV/AIDS contraction.
It is the responsibility of every Zimbabwean to take charge and play their part in working towards getting to Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero HIV related deaths. We are all either infected or affected by the virus and denying it will not do Zimbabwe any good.