UK Gives £20 million To Fight HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe

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 Hairdressers fight HIV in Zimbabwe.OVER a million Zimbabweans who are unaware that they’re HIV positive will be helped as part of a UK-funded campaign to help fight the country’s HIV and AIDS epidemic.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn yesterday awarded £20 million for the NGO-run, AIDS prevention programme that aims to reduce new infections by increasing testing and encouraging safer sexual behaviour.

The funding will help Population Services International (PSI) Zimbabwe’s five year programme to distribute over 250 million condoms, including female condoms distributed through a network of 700 hair salons, provide better testing and counselling services so that 800,000 people can learn their HIV status, target villages around the country with a music and games-based local education campaign and launch a national campaign spearheaded by a HIV-positive pastor that will help break down the stigma around AIDS.

With one in five adults infected, Zimbabwe currently has one of the highest HIV rates in the world. Eighty per cent of those infected are unaware of their HIV status. But progress is being made in the battle against the disease with national infection rates falling in the last five years.

A recent UNAIDS review credits this reduction to big changes in behaviour, including a drop in the number of sexual partners and large increases in condom use.

Hilary Benn said:

“People should not die because they have sex. By giving them the knowledge and the means to protect themselves we can save many lives. That’s why we’re helping to make HIV prevention services more accessible to more people.

“There has been progress in Zimbabwe over the last few years, with the HIV rate falling, particularly amongst vulnerable young women. By continuing to get the right message across we can build towards our goal of an AIDS-free generation”.

The new scheme, which is co-funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will build on the success of the prevention programme that has been running for the last five years. Thanks to funding from DFID and USAID between 2001 and 2005, PSI has distributed over 163 million male condoms and over 3.8 million female condoms.

Last year more than half of all female condoms were distributed through a network of 500 hair salons and 1000 hair dressers trained through the programme. Hairdressers in low-income areas have been trained to talk with their clients about how to effectively use female condoms thereby cutting the risk that women face.

The hair salon programme has hugely influenced the increase in knowledge and demand for the female condom in Zimbabwe, significantly contributing to the 240% increase in use between 2001 and 2006.

How Zimbabwe’s Hairdressers are helping to cut HIV infection

Case study:

Maria Tavambirwa (30) is a young hair dresser playing an active role in preventing HIV and AIDS transmission. She does this by promoting the use of the ‘care’ female condom among young women in her salon in Chitungwiza, a town just outside Harare.

Maria is very enthusiastic about the role she is playing in helping women at risk to take the initiative in protecting themselves from HIV infection. She says; "My clients are mostly young girls from a nearby college who are forced to engage in unprotected sex with older men because of economic pressures.

"They visit the salon on a regular basis and I take this opportunity to talk to them on the benefits of using the female condom while they are having their hair done."

Read the full Case Study here. http://www.dfid.gov.uk/casestudies/files/africa/zim-hair.asp