Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for the prioritisation of uniformed forces in treatment and disease management programmes since they are among the most vulnerable and susceptible groups when it comes to HIV, AIDS and other communicable diseases due to the nature of their job.Cde Mnangagwa made the remarks after receiving laboratory diagnostic equipment from the Acting Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Sydney Sekeramayi and the National Aids Council.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces have been actively involved in the national response to HIV and AIDS through various programmes over the years.
In recognition of the role played by the different arms of the uniformed forces, the National Aids Council handed over laboratory diagnostic equipment to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces at a ceremony held in Harare.
Accepting the equipment which included six CD4 count machines and six hematology analysers, Cde Mnangagwa said the equipment will be put to good use as every member of the uniformed forces, their dependents and surrounding communities will have access to the machines.
Presenting the equipment bought by NAC, Dr Sekeramayi said the peace and security that the country enjoys is a result of the defence forces efforts, thus the need to ensure that they have access to treatment services.
NAC Board chairperson, Reverend Murombedzi Kuchera said while the country has made commendable progress in reducing the HIV prevalence from over 29% in 1999 to 14,2% in 2009, a lot still needs to be done to ensure that the more than 600 000 people who are in need of anti-retroviral drugs have access to them.
NAC has so far procured 20 CD4 count machines, each with a capacity to perform up to 400 blood samples tests per day.
Ten have already been installed at various hospitals across the country.
Fifty percent of resources accrued from the AIDS levy are going towards the purchase of essential anti-retroviral drugs.