ZAMBIA is one of the countries seriously ravaged by the HIV and AIDS pandemic, says Chipata district commissioner Moses Nyirenda.

Officiating at the national Voluntary Counseling and Testing Day in chief Chanje's area on Thursday, Nyirenda said the day was important because it showed the commitment the people have to fighting the spread of HIV .

"Whilst the national and provincial HIV and AIDS prevalence rates stand at 14 per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively, Chipata district prevalence rate is even higher than the two. The Chipata district rate stands at 22.6 per cent which is by far higher than both the national and provincial rates.

Consequently, the number of orphans and vulnerable children is estimated at 44,233 out of the total 124,920 for the entire province," Nyirenda said.

He said despite the prevalence rate being so high, the majority of the people still do not know their status.

"New infections are occurring every day while those infected are re-infecting themselves because they do not know their HIV status. In fact, only 15 per cent of Zambians know their status. If people go for VCT, they will be equipped with the knowledge to either protect them from infection, or live positively with HIV and AIDS and access treatment when they need it," Nyirenda said.

He said VCT was an entry point to HIV prevention, care and support.

"When people know their status, they will be able to make informed choices on how they can either avoid HIV infection if negative, or live positively if they are positive. Fear, denial, stigma and discrimination all keep people from taking advantage of the services that are available. It is however time for all of us to stand up and overcome fear and act against stigma and discrimination," said Nyirenda.