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After Voluntary HIV Testing, Some Zimbabwe Legislators Announce Results

Zimbabwe's parliament wrapped up its Aids awareness campaign Friday with about 23 male legislators receiving circumcision and several others who tested for HIV publicly declaring their results.

House Speaker Lovemore Moyo and Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, who both announced they that had tested negative for the Aids virus, led a procession by lawmakers in Harare, concluding the program.

"As the leader of parliament, I saw it fit for me to go public with my results so as to inspire others," said Moyo, adding he still would have shared his results had he tasted HIV positive.

A handful of other members of parliament who took the voluntary tests also declared their results, all claiming to have tested negative, but the majority chose to remain silent.

The three-day campaign was initiated by the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV/Aids, a voluntary organization formed in March by legislators seeking to fight the stigma associated with Aids and discrimination against those living with the disease.

Members started testing in small tents at a makeshift clinic Wednesday and were joined by members of the public and journalists on Friday.

Some of those who got circumcised shared their experiences. "I always thought it was painful, but I can tell you I did not feel any pain," said lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, chairman of the Parliamentarians Against HIV/Aids.

Chebundo also revealed that he had tasted HIV negative.

Scientific research has shown male circumcision to significantly reduce the risk of men getting HIV via sex. Zimbabwean authorities fully embraced the method and rolled out a nationwide drive that has seen the circumcision of 70,000 men since 2009.

But Zimbabwe National Network of People Living With HIV/Aids chairman Sipho Mahlangu told VOA that the government should equally prioritizing all prevention methods and not concentrate on circumcision alone.

About 1,2 million Zimbabweans live with HIV, according to 2009 statistics by the United Nations.