Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has urged politicians to reveal their HIV status - in order to fight the stigma associated with the virus that causes AIDS. Mugabe made the appeal in Harare Thursday at the launch of Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV and AIDS - or ZIPAH.
Even though the HIV/AIDS rate has been declining, Zimbabwe still has one of the highest percentages of people infected with the virus.
So President Robert Mugabe is urging Zimbabwean politicians to fight the spread of HIV and the stigma associated with it by going public with their status.
“It is disappointing to notice that there are some leaders whose behavior is at odds with an HIV/AIDS-infested social environment," said Mugabe. "Let therefore ZIPAH be the domain and medium through which we address such issues as we demand of each other positive and exemplary behavior."
In a public event in Harare Thursday, many lawmakers did submit to public blood tests. The president recalled sadly how he has lost political colleagues to the deadly infection.
“Not just in my family… in extended family, also in my political family, which is a large family as you are able to imagine," said Mugabe. "Comrades I have worked perished, sat with in cabinet perished. I have not announced it but I can tell you that quite a number of them have died of HIV/AIDS. Not everybody but quite a number.”
Mugabe says African leaders needed to unite to fight AIDS which is a particular scourge in southern Africa.
Analysts say fighting the spread of HIV in Zimbabwe has been hampered by lack of funds despite the nation being the first in Africa to introduce, in 1999, a special three percent tax to boost funds to combat the disease.