United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote has encouraged young people in the country to get tested and know their HIV status in order to help government achieve its target of ending the spread of AIDS by next year.
And Ambassador Foote says corruption is not peculiar to Zambia but it must be stopped because it disadvantages the needy.
During a town hall interaction on youth leadership and accountability held at the Cavendish School of Medicine in Lusaka, Thursday, Ambassador Foote said much of the US$500 million in grants from his country annually was allocated to the health sector.
“During the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, President Edgar Lungu emphasised the importance that the Zambian government places on the need to safeguard the welfare of the people, especially the children and the youths. The US government supplements these efforts by investing about USD $500 million every year in grants that don’t require paying back. We support education, health, promote good laws, protect the environment, stir economic development, enhance security, promote youth and women’s leadership and to provide opportunities for exchange. Just in the health sector alone which is where we do most of our intervention, our partnership with government in Zambia has saved over one million lives. We have over one million of our brothers and sisters who are HIV positive who are currently receiving HIV/AIDS relief,” Ambassador Foote said.
Ambassador Foote encouraged the youth to get themselves tested for HIV.
“How many of you here know their HIV status? Most of the young people in this country do not want to get tested and they don’t know their status. 20 per cent of the males in this country, we don’t know your status, so there is just some hard demographics. But go get tested, tell your people to go get tested, find out your status, and now the treatment is so good that when someone takes it within a few weeks, not only will they live a healthy life but they can’t transfer the disease to the next person. So if I am tested positive and I start treatment, after two or three weeks, I can no longer transfer the disease. So I would like to encourage everyone here today to go get yourself tested for HIV. Please get tested. In this country, almost all transmissions are from mother to child or through early sexual relationships. If you test positive, it’s not the end of the world, you can still live a normal life. HIV infection is just like high blood pressure or diabetes or heart diseas. To you students of Cavendish University, you have the responsibility of developing your communities, you are responsible for helping this country and the government attain its target of ending the spread of HIV infections by 2020,” he said.
Meanwhile, responding to a question from a third year Medicine student, who wanted to know what the US government was doing about the alleged corruption in the Zambian government, Foote said he two governments were in talks about ways of minimizing corruption.
“Corruption is not unique to Zambia and if I say in my country there is no corruption, I will be lying. So if we talk about corruption in Zambia for instance, it’s the abuse of resources that should be going to provide resources for everybody, including the most needy people in the country. Corruption destroys the public service, it fuels instability, it fuels crime and what it means is the people who need help from the government get disadvantaged. So the United States government’s supervision is to help countries like Zambia to minimise corruption, to address it and to show political will to try and minimise corruption in the country. My job is not to tell the government what to do, but what I can do is to engage them when we have such allegations,” said Ambassador Foote.