(By Speedwell Mupuchi and Masuzyo Chakwe)
US Ambassador Daniel Foote has urged people to test and know their HIV and make the virus epidemic controlled in Zambia by next year.
During a cocktail at his residence to welcome Martin Dale, the Deputy Chief of Mission, on Thursday night, Ambassador Foote said the US government was very much involved in issues of health, including the fight against HIV.
Earlier in the day, Ambassador Foote along with health minister Chitalu Chilufya launched counseling, testing and treatment campaign in Lusaka’s Bauleni Compound.
He said since he came to Zambia two years ago, he has never seen senior government leaders publicly taking HIV tests.
“So I took one, along with one of your ministers, one of your members of parliament, and we all talked before hand, we all said that you know whether we take this test or not, we are negative or positive, it won’t matter whether take this test or not. We all did and we all didn’t share the result,” he explained.
He said sharing results somehow creates stigma.
“What I am asking you to do, and what we all agreed is that if we test positive, we would immediately get on treatment and we would stay on treatment either until a cure is found or for the rest of our lives,” he said.
Ambassador Foote said one of the challenges in Zambia was in reaching out to about 15 per cent of the population.
He urged the attendees to advise their relatives to talk to councillors and know their HIV status.
“50 per cent of kids under the age of 14, we don’t know their status. 20 per cent of the males in this country, we don’t know your status, so there is some hard demographics,” he said.
Ambassador Foote said latest the treatment regime was so good that if one tested positive for HIV today, within 14 days the virus would be so low that it could not be transmitted.
“That’s like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Tell your people go get tested, find out your status,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Foote says entrepreneurship creates a culture in which business innovation and creativity lead to original solutions to economic and societal challenges.
During the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs Networking Breakfast yesterday, Ambassador Foote said in Zambia, women entrepreneurs were finding these solutions and helping Zambia overcome its challenges.
He congratulated the first 31 Zambian women selected to participate in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs.
He said more than 1,000 women entrepreneurs in Lusaka applied for this programme and their selection was a testament to their exceptional creativity and purpose.
“We know that entrepreneurship creates a culture in which business innovation and creativity lead to original solutions to economic and societal challenges. In Zambia, women entrepreneurs are finding these solutions and helping Zambia overcome its challenges,” he said.
Ambassador Foote said the success of women-owned businesses plays an important role in diversifying Zambia’s economy, which remains an urgent need.
“The United States is committed to women’s economic empowerment and participation, which is an important step in creating jobs and promoting stability and prosperity for all. This is what the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs is all about. It is designed to provide the knowledge, networks, practical tools, and mentorship required to realize your business dreams,” he said.
He said the AWE programme was just one of the many programmes supported by the United States to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in Zambia.
He said since 2015, the U.S. Embassy had worked with WECREATE to co-host the Zambia Entrepreneurship Summit, which connects entrepreneurs, with lenders, investors, business associations, and other organisations for possible partnerships and deals.
Ambassador Foote also said since 2015, the embassy had collaborated with BongoHive on a series of entrepreneurship bootcamps that helped young Zambian entrepreneurs refine business start-up ideas.
“I am pleased to see that both WECREATE and BongoHive are now simultaneously partnering with the embassy on this new initiative. Thank you! Thanks also go to program mentors, facilitators, and other partners for helping these dynamic and innovative women fulfil develop their business plans,” said Ambassador Foote.
“I wish you all the best during your AWE program as you embark on this exciting journey of starting or developing your business dream.”