The National AIDS Council (NAC) has expressed concern over the high HIV incidence rate among girls and young women.

According to NAC, the HIV incidence rate for the general population has been going down, but ironically that for young women in the 15 to 24 years age group is increasing.

This is attributable to cross generational sex between girls and young women on one hand and men aged over 45 on the other.

NAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Tapiwa Maure said stakeholders had to come up with a programme dubbed, “DREAMA” meant to protect the girl child by empowering them through various interventions that reduce their level of vulnerability.

“Generally HIV incidence has gone down. However, there are worrying trends among young women where the incidence is high. We have come up with the DREAMS programme that specifically looks at protecting the girl child,” he said.

HIV and AIDS interventions programming incorporates cancer given the co-relationship between the conditions, with reports saying 60 percent of cancer cases are HIV positive.

Priscilla Mangwiro of the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe said it is critical to know one’s HIV status as cancer takes advantage of compromised system.

“There is a strong relationship between cancer and HIV. 60 percent of cancer cases are HIV positive, if you don’t know your HIV status you are at risk. For those on effect art, the risk of cancer is reduced,” she said.

Journalist Charles Mushinga said for as long as HIV and AIDS as well as cancer remain epidemics for which there is need for a concerted national response, the conditions must continue to get prominent coverage by the media.

“The HIV and AIDS story can be said to be a tired one for as long as they remain an epidemic. We have a duty as the media to keep providing relevant information on the conditions so as to empower the communities who rely on us for information,” Mushinga said.

NAC recently hosted a workshop for editors from across the media divide.