THE ministry of higher and tertiary education recently advertised scholarships to Egypt which demand that applicants must provide certificates proving they are not infected with HIV, drawing condemnation from HIV/AIDS activists.
Campaigners said they found it difficult to understand the rationale for such “stigmatisation and discrimination” against people living with the HIV virus.
The advert, which is signed by the ministry’s permanent secretary, invites qualified Zimbabweans to apply for undergraduate scholarships to Egypt which start in September this year.
Among other requirements, the advert states that: “Nominated candidates will be required to produce a satisfactory Medical Report which includes a negative HIV and AIDS certificate.”
A higher education ministry official who preferred not to be named told NewZimbabwe.com that “this is an Egyptian scholarship and the requirements and conditions are Egyptian.
It’s right and proper that you put your questions to the Egyptian,” he added.
Still, activists said the requirements mean that HIV-positive Zimbabweans are being discriminated against and refused opportunities because of their health.
SafAids communications manager Tariro Makanga said such discrimination sets the country backwards after significant progress had been made in the response to HIV and AIDS.
“Discriminating students because of their HIV+ status reverses the gains that government, especially Ministry of Health and Child Care and other stakeholders, have achieved so far,” she said.
“We have reached a point where HIV is like any other illness due to availability of treatment with HIV+ students performing the same way even better than HIV-negative counterparts.
“We should take the time to re-enforce the message that HIV is manageable condition which on one should use to discriminate people living with it.”
However, the ministry official we spoke to the health condition imposed by the Egyptian government was not uncommon.
“There are many other countries with the same requirements and conditions, some of which you would be surprised about and these have had this requirement and condition since time immemorial,” he said.
“However, we in Zimbabwe do not discriminate against people living with HIV and Aids