By Safari Njema
Next week is a busy week for Zimbabwe as it prepares to host the President of China, Xi Jinping, and also a weeklong International Conference on Aids and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) in Africa or ICASA.
The 18th ICASA conference, which will take place at the Rainbow Towers in Harare beginning Sunday, is considered the biggest Aids conference in Africa, coinciding with World Aids Day on December 1.
An estimated 10,000 delegates, comprising various stakeholders in the fight against the pandemic, are expected to attend the conference, whose theme this year is; “Aids in Post 2015 Era: Linking Leadership, Science and Human Rights.”
The conference aims to renew global commitment to reduce the spread of the pandemic, which is seeing reversal of gains in some groups, particularly the youth.
People with disabilities say it is important for the forthcoming ICASA conference to take note of their concerns, especially issues around reproductive health.
People with disabilities say they want to be fully involved and consulted in discussions of HIV and sexually-transmitted infections.
The ICASA conference is an opportunity for all stakeholders involved in the fight against the deadly HIV virus, to join efforts in committing to achieving an AIDS-free Africa.
One of the Senators, who represent people with disabilities in the House of Assembly, Nyamayabo Mashavakure, says the goal of an Aids free Africa can only be achieved if people with disabilities are fully involved at every level.
“The disabled themselves, they need information on sexual and reproductive health, they need information about sexually-transmitted infections, they need information about HIV and AIDS, they also need information about how and where to access any remedial processes that may be available,” he said.
Senator Mashavakure says people with disabilities have sexual needs just like anybody else.
He adds those with disabilities are better placed to talk about HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted infections instead of having others speak on their behalf.
“The public should be generally aware that disabled people, just like anybody else are humans and are susceptible to infections and HIV and AIDS and any other disease,” the Senator said.
“So they should not be surprised that they encounter at a clinic a person with a disability suffering from an infection which they might have thought could not be associated with a disabled person.”
Xi Jinping's Visit
Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe, who's currently in Paris, France, for the climate change summit, this week opened the revamped Harare Airport road ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit.
The road has for the last six years been under serious renovation. It has been changed into a dual carriageway.
The President said the renovated road would project a positive image to visitors.
"This is the first road for visitors to Zimbabwe, be they dignitaries, foreign investors or even tourists, see as they come into the country," he said.
The Chinese leader is expected to arrive in Harare Tuesday after attending the climate summit with Mr. Mugabe in France.