By Byron Mutingwende
Member of the National Assembly for Norton, Temba Mliswa has come out clean and quashed allegations of having infected a young girl with HIV and a sexually transmitted infection after he went public in testing for his status.
In a Tweet by a figure who identified self as Mai Tindo, it was insinuated that the legislator was in the habit of abusing young girls and spreading STIs and HIV.
“A person who knowingly infects another person with an STI/HIV nauseates me. @TembaMliswa, we are still dealing neNyaya yako yekupa vana utachiona. I sat down newe in 2013 & begged u. Hauteereri. This time I am exposing you. Eugenia will not die coz of you,” read the Tweet.
As a bearer of a public office, Mliswa made the decision to prove to the unknown complaint the “he or she was fake” by undergoing an HIV test in public so as to “expose the liar.”
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe remains worryingly high despite efforts being made to mitigate its spread. Currently there are 1,4 million people estimated to be living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, (HIV) the virus that causes AIDS and continues to infect large numbers of Zimbabweans. Even now, most Zimbabweans do not even know their status. Knowledge regarding prevention programmes abounds now more than ever before in the history of the epidemic but sadly many people still ignore these efforts.
“Infected people die as a result of the opportunistic infections and tumours that invade the body with the breakdown of the immune system. In the absence of widespread use of antiretroviral therapy (ART), nearly all infected people will eventually die from AIDS- related causes. The majority will be dead within 10 years of infection and many will die even sooner. The use of ART, can preserve health longer and prolong life. Therefore early detection is imperative.
“Prevention is always better than cure and the only person you can trust is yourself. Those that engage in risky sexual behaviour should get tested so that they know their status and can begin ART as early as possible and prevent the spread of the virus. As a legislator I believe that it is important that laws are enacted that protect those unknowingly infected with HIV and I will advocate towards it,” Mliswa said.
He said HIV is not a death sentence and it does not prevent one from living a normal life with the correct medical attention and diet. It is not easily transmitted in a normal set up and therefore the negative stigma associated with the virus needs to be dispelled.
“Even if I had to test positive today would my status determine or dictate my role as a legislator? Would it make me any less capable of serving the electorate? The negative comments, to the point of abuse carelessly thrown on social media regarding HIV indicate that as a society we still have a long way to go.
“I must admit that social media seems to have brought out the very worst in some people. Innocent means to communicate with a wide population has been turned into an ugly platform of obscenity. This is sad and does not mirror the respectful and cultured manner that once epitomised and set apart Zimbabweans. There are some incidents that are so bad that one wonders whether a law should be enacted to ensure that people are certified before being allowed to engage in social media!” Mliswa said.
It has emerged that personal vendettas and smear campaigns abound as social media is abused and many become gullible to every word or story that trends. In all the stories that are peddled, he urged people to be wise and discerning enough to separate fact from fiction since sensationalism does not signify authenticity hence the need to be be alert to hinge news to evidence just as a court of justice.
“Evidence, evidence, evidence. Coming to me personally. As you know, I do not usually respond to social media slurs. It has been peddled that I have been in the habit of consorting with underage girls. I categorically deny such frivolous claims with the contempt they deserve. However I am well aware that I can deny it until I am blue in the face and yet there will always be the naysayers that insist otherwise, such is the depravity of society. I have youthful daughters and it boggles the mind to think that I could ever fathom to engage in such perverted and lewd acts.”
As a leader who always leads from the front, Mliswa got tested for HIV at the New Start Centre situated at New Africa House, 40 Kwame Nkrumah Avenue. Results publicly displayed showed that the legislator is HIV negative.
“May I however impress upon you all. It is not the result that is important it is accepting that there are people in society that are living with the virus and it is therefore a sensitive issue. It is not something to be slighted or ridiculed. Where are we heading as society if we cannot learn to respect one another and have boundaries? This is what motivated me to undertake such a move. It is in protection of those who may be voiceless but who feel the pain. It is to encourage early detection. It is to urge everyone to know their status and it is to impress upon everybody to act responsibly,” Mliswa added.