HARARE - A Zimbabwean teenager has released a song called "Getting to Zero" as part of his efforts to fight the spread of HIV in his country. The title refers to Zimbabwe's goal of reaching a net-zero rate of new HIV infections by 2015. The song's release coincides with this year's World AIDS Day.
"Getting to Zero" was composed by an 18-year-old Zimbabwean, Theophylus Phoelyn, 18, and will be used by Zimbabwe as a theme song for this year's World AIDS Day.
Most young musicians in Zimbabwe sing about love, sex and other social issues, but HIV isn't typically addressed in popular music.
"I think not enough young people out there are getting involved in trying to make a long-lasting change in the community today," said Phoelyn. "We are not active enough in this cause, we are not active enough in trying to get to zero. I think it was about time we look for solution and be solution ourselves."
A solution is needed in Zimbabwe as statistics show that the majority of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe are young. More than 14 percent of Zimbabweans between the ages of 15 and 49 have the virus. That is the fifth highest infection rate in the world.
Earlier this week, young people in Zimbabwe told government officials that the country can only meet its 2015 goal of a zero HIV infection rate if they are involved in policy making.
Phoelyn says his song fits well in Zimbabwe's quest to reach that goal. "It is about getting to zero discrimination, zero stigma, zero deaths, zero TB-related deaths for people living with AIDS," Phoelyn added.
This song will be released this Saturday in the town of Beitbridge at the border of Zimbabwe and South Africa, the busiest border in the South African Development Community region. Madeline Dube of Zimbabwe's National AIDS Council explains why the government chose to mark World AIDS Day in this border region.
"We want to be able to target the communities to be aware of HIV/AIDS," said Dube. "This year's Zimbabwe health demographic survey shows that Matabeleland South has a high prevalence rate – it is at 21 percent. There are more than the country's average which is at 15 percent. So we are concerned that we need to communicate the HIV infection, this theme of 'Getting to Zero'."
Zimbabwe has made significant progress against AIDS but still faces an uphill battle with the disease. While the United Nations says new HIV infection rates have dropped by 50 percent in Zimbabwe, the country still has 1.2 million people living with the virus.