Health authorities in Mzimba have bemoaned the high HIV prevalence in Viphya Plantation where men still queue for sex.
Mzimba District Health Office estimates that 6.5 percent of people in and around the country’s largest manmade forest are living with the virus that causes Aids.
This is double the district average estimated at 3.5 percent.
But it represents a drop in the hugely deforested plantation’s rates which hovered at 8 percent previously.
In an interview on Wednesday, M’mbelwa District Council Aids coordinator Frank Mfune bemoaned increased risky sexual activities, especially sex work, flourishing in the forest on the boundary between Mzimba and Nkhata Bay.
“We have young and old women from the rest of the country who earn a living through sex work in the forest. This increases the risk of HIV infections,” he said.
Since March, Youth and Society (YAS) has been implementing a year-long initiative to ensure up to 900 people in Chikhwengwe, Lusangazi, Muzipazi, Chikangawa, Elamuleni and other areas surrounding the plantation to go for HIV testing and counselling.
The villagers are in constant contact with key and at-risk populations, especially sex workers, migrant workers, truck drivers and others.
Mfune thanked YAS for beating the target four months before the project, which is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), winds up in March.
YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka said the influx of mobile populations in the forest has slowly turned surrounding communities into high risk areas for HIV transmission. n