Sunday, 4 December 2016

Zambia’s HIV Prevalence Rate Drops To 12%

A 2016 World AIDS Day billboard in Lusaka
By Paul Shalala
Zambia’s HIV prevalence rate has dropped from 15.5% to 12.3%.
According to results of a joint survey by the United States and Zambian governments released three days ago, 12.3 percent of adults ages 15 to 59 are living with HIV and approximately 46,000 new cases of HIV occur every year.
The groundbreaking survey, the Zambia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZAMPHIA), is a nationally representative, population-based HIV survey which was launched on November 27, 2015.
ZAMPHIA is led by Zambia's Ministry of Health with financial and technical assistance from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
According to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Lusaka, the survey measured the burden of HIV and the impact of Zambia’s HIV prevention, care, and treatment services.
“Over the course of six months in 2016, 12,130 randomly selected households from across Zambia were visited by ZAMPHIA field teams. The teams included nurses and interviewers. Men, women, and children of all ages could participate in the survey, regardless of HIV status,” reads the statement in part.
The survey found that of all persons living with HIV in Zambia, 59.8 percent are virally suppressed, meaning that the amount of HIV virus in an infected individual’s blood is below the threshold that would put them at greater risk for developing HIV-related disease and transmitting the virus to others.
It further found that among the 10 provinces, Eastern Province had the highest prevalence of suppressed HIV viral load at 67% while Northern Province had the lowest at 50%.
Among children, the survey found that 1.3% of them aged 0-14 are living with HIV across the country.
This is the first time that the prevalence rate for the pediatric is being quantified in Zambia.
Zambia is one of the first countries to implement this groundbreaking, detailed population-based HIV impact assessment (PHIA) survey.
According to the US government, the PHIA surveys will be implemented in at least 13 countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.
Since 2004, the US government, through PEPFAR,  has contributed over $3 billion to the HIV fight in Zambia.
In 2017, the US and Zambian governments will launch the #TestAndStart project which is aimed at helping HIV positive individuals from further spreading the virus by adopting anti-retroviral guidelines recommended by the World Health Organisation. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

GBV, Early Marriage 'Super Girls' Get Entrepreneurial Skills

Some of the Super Girls who received the training
By Paul Shalala in Pemba

They sing joyously and smile as they prepare to attend class.

These are 42 young women of Pemba District in Southern Province, most of whom are victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and early marriages.

Some have gone through beatings, torture, painful divorce and others went through difficult delivery as young mothers.

But in the past two days, they were all smiles at the Pemba Teachers Resource Center to acquire knowledge in business.

These young women live in Pemba, a newly created district which is predominantly rural and whose residents mainly depend on agriculture for their survival, are strong and role models to other women.

In a society where women rarely come out in the open over issues such as wife battery and abuse, the women of Pemba seem to be a rare breed.

They attended a two day training in entrepreneurship being led by Nalituba Mudenda and Nang’amba Chintu, both 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows who spent six weeks at the University of Iowa and University of Nevada –Reno respectively under the US State Department’s Young Africa Leaders Initiative earlier this year.

Nalituba Mudenda conducting one of his lessons
Mr Mudenda is the brains behind Smart Dreams Startup for Young Entrepreneurs, a non profit which aims at building an entrepreneurial mindset among youths and women and helping them grow their ideas into big and attainable businesses.

During the training, he was joined by Ms Chintu who established the Pemba Super Girls Club last year to help female victims of GBV come out in the open and gain enterpreneural skills.

During the traininhg, the 42 women went through courses such as business models, customer segments, record keeping and customer relations.

“The response towards entrepreneurship by these women here in Pemba is overwhelming. Am seeing powerful business women in Pemba, this will reduce on the rate of poverty, child labour, gender based violence because more women will be empowered to become successful entrepreneurs,” said Mr Mudenda who drove over 500 kilometers from the northern Zambian city of Ndola to conduct the free training at his own cost.

He adds that the women have a lot of potential:  “These women have brilliant ideas which when developed can turn into successful businesses. The only challenge many entrepreneurs here face is how to do customer discovery, hence going into wrong businesses.”

For Ms Chintu who started the club without any external funding, the training is a dream come true.

“Of the 42 members, 22 of them stopped school in Grade Nine due to early marriage, pregnancies or GBV while others stopped school in Grade 10. The training on entrepreneurship is a dream come true because I have always wanted to equip them with entrepreneural skills so that they can have  income generating projects whose proceeds can go towards their children’s school fees and opening their individual start ups,” she said.

The Super Girls during one of their computer lessons
Ms Chintu is a journalist whose full time job is that of Pemba District Information Officer at the Zambia News and Information Services, a department under Zambia’s Ministry of Information.

During the workshop, the women also benefited from lectures given by a manager from Investrust Bank who took them in financial subjects such as types of accounts, loan services and products which the bank can use to help the club as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Judith Mwale, one of the beneficiaries of the training, says she learnt a lot.

“The training is beneficial because am being taught to work in a group and the other thing I have learnt is financial management and entrepreneurship,” said Mrs Mwale.

The Pemba Super Girls, who meet regularly for such activities as netball and computer lessons, have become a household name in Pemba.

The group is involved in information sharing activities during their netball games with other women groups in the villages surrounding Pemba town.

These activities include the promotion of taking back female pupils to school so that they can be given another chance to continue with their studies.

The joyous Super Girls after playing netball at Pemba Grounds
This is being done in conjunction with the Ministry of General Education under its re-entry policy which allows girls who have fallen pregnant or who were married at an early age to go back to school and continue with classes.

Last week when Pemba District held activities to commence the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, the Super Girls were instrumental in the marchpast.

One of the Super Girls Egala Kabesha was even honoured by Pemba District Commissioner Reginald Mugoba for defying the odds and taking her husband to court for GBV.

Starting in January 2017, the 42 Pemba Super Girls are expected to start going through literacy classes as a way of keeping them busy.

All these activities are being done with the consent and support of the spouses of those ‘girls’ who are married to avoid conflict in the houses.

For a rural area like Pemba, the support of the spouses to the Super Girls’ activities is critical to avoid further violence in the house when the women return home late from club activities.