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Under the theme “Getting To Zero: Zero new infections. Zero deaths. Zero Discrimination” schools in Zimbabwe kicked off the World AIDS Day School Arts Festival commemorations in Harare last Friday at Allan Wilson High School.
Various schools drawn from several provinces across the nation converged in Harare to raise and strengthen HIV and AIDS awareness through debate, drama, poetry, song and dance. Art is a powerful tool to fight stigma associated with HIV and AIDS especially among children and youths. This year’s commemorations hosted by Let Them Trust saw schools battling it out for top honors in drama and poetry. Students urged society to fight AIDS through seeking early treatment, practicing safe sex, getting tested and abandoning cultural norms like spousal inheritance.
According to the National Aids Council, around 1,242,768 as people are living with HIV of which 941,0241 are AIDS orphans.
AIDS has left many children in Zimbabwe vulnerable. The effect of AIDS has resulted in many children dropping out school to become parents at a tender age. Left with no coping strategies most of these children end up on the streets begging and exposed to sexual abuse, especially young girls. The economic situation in the country has seen an increase in spousal separation as people cross borders to neighbouring countries in search for jobs. As highlighted in one of the plays, the battle to reduce the HIV prevalence rate takes the collective effort of the whole community.
Recently it was reported in the press that the HIV prevalence rate in Zimbabwe is on the up and this has been attributed to the economic challenges we are facing. In addition, the delay by men to visit health institutions, and inconsistent treatment uptake has also been one of the major setbacks in the fight against AIDS in Zimbabwe.