By ANDREW PHIRI –
LIVINGSTONE District medical officer Cliff Hara has observed that most pregnant women in the district have been avoiding antenatal services because of compulsory HIV/AIDS testing for the women and their spouses.
Dr Hara said some health centres, including Maramba Clinic, had seen a decrease in women going to receive antenatal services because the women were forced to go to the clinics together with their spouses and the HIV testing was mandatory to the couple.
He said health personnel in the clinics had noted the development and had since decided to stop the compulsory HIV testing on spouses.
Dr Hara said the practice, which was well intended, met some resistance from some pregnant women and men, with women going to an extent of going with fake husbands to undergo testing.
He was speaking at Maramba Clinic at the weekend when Community Development, Mother and Child Health Minister Emerine Kabanshi visited the clinic.
“We have observed that women are avoiding ante -natal services because of the aspect of coming with their spouses so that they could be tested together.
“So we have decided to abolish that system because it disadvantages women because they do not get medical attention,” Dr Hara said.
Dr Hara said Maramba clinic had in the past three months seen an increase in Tuberculosis (TB) cases.
He said the TB cases reported at the clinic were static, and said all patients who went through Maramba Clinic were counseled and tested for HIV.
In response, Ms Kabanshi urged health personnel to intensify sensitisation campaigns in communities on the need for pregnant women to go for anti-natal services.
Ms Kabanshi also asked health workers to check their working culture and render good services to patients for them not to shun going to clinics.
“So maybe what our health personnel need to do is to change their attitude towards patients. We also need to do a lot of sensitisation, especially for the pregnant women for them to go for anti-natal services,” Ms Kabanshi said.
She also asked health workers and officers from the department of community development to work together and help the aged at the Maramba Old People’s home.