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Harare (AFP) June 21, 2012
Dozens of Zimbabwean lawmakers on Thursday underwent HIV tests at parliament, with many pledging to undergo circumcision the following day, at the start of a new anti-AIDS campaign.
At least 60 members of parliament from the country's two main political parties took turns to receive counselling, before getting tested in a makeshift clinic set up inside the parliament building.
"Tomorrow we will proceed with circumcision. So far about 60 MPs have been tested," said Patience Dube, spokeswoman for Population Services International, the organisation conducting the tests.
Zimbabwe has made gains in fighting HIV, which infected 14 percent of the population in 2009, down from 23 percent in 2003, according to the United Nations.
"The response has been very overwhelming as the MPs came out in large numbers," said Dube.
More lawmakers were expected to undergo tests on Friday when they take the campaign to a public square in the capital.
Blessing Chebundo, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party, said taking part in the campaign was his way of leading from the front.
"By knowing my status, I am trying to fight discrimination. What we are doing here is unique," said Chebundo.
"This also inspires the people we represent to follow suit," he said, adding that the campaign will help the government to formulate better policies to fight the pandemic.
Zimbabwe has 1.1 million people living with HIV, including 150,000 children, according to the National AIDS Council.
"I tested negative and I am very happy. The sad thing is that although women MPs are here in full force, our male counterparts have been slow in having tests," said Sarah Mahoka, a lawmaker from President Robert Mugabe's party.
In March, Mugabe told parliament that some of his political allies had died of AIDS, in a rare open talk about the disease.
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