JUST 15 percent of young people in Zimbabwe know their HIV status, a regional organisation has said.
Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) started operating in 2001 and is now present in 13 countries in the sub-region.
The group says the absence of investment in psycho-social support has discouraged young people from wanting to know their status in a country where stigma and discrimination remains rife.
“Our context is that less than 15 percent our young people know their status which means the rest don’t know,” REPSSI country representative Sibusisiwe Marunda told Parliament’s HIV/Aids thematic committee on Monday.
“They (youths) have never been presented with an opportunity to get tested or, if the opportunity is there, they don’t feel confident enough. The environment doesn’t encourage them to access testing services and treatment.
“Again, as parents we are still stuck in the space that I want my 15-year-old to be a virgin. I don’t want to find a condom in their bags. Fine they will not access but still be sexually active and contract HIV.
“A study done in Africa also showed that 48 percent of students think a student who tests positive for HIV should stop coming to school.”
Marunda said the cultural connotations to age and sex also affect service providers resulting in them passing comments which discourage young people from using HIV services.
HIV sector workers and interest groups have been advocating for the creation of youth friendly zones manned by young people instead of the elderly workforce as is the case currently.
The country’s prevalence rate is at 15 percent with at least 1,2 million Zimbabweans living with the virus. Aids is the leading cause of death in adolescents in southern Africa.