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"The doctors knew, of course, but there was nothing they could do ...

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"The government will fight HIV/AIDS to the last drop of our blood because it almost wiped out Africans," District Commissioner Protacia Mulenga, the government's top official in the region, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "But now when someone has learnt their status, there's a new control ... "What we have done in Zambia needs extending to other countries.

"But I'm the governor here and believe me, the government cannot reach where DAPP has reached." Mulenga is no bureaucratic bystander to the epidemic. His sister is HIV-positive and he cares for her children. The best experience was learnt here and it needs to penetrate further." (Reporting By Lyndsay Griffiths, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

Part of this is due to campaigns like the one run by DAPP, a local NGO that invented a seemingly simple strategy to secure a military-style "Total Control of the Epidemic".

Conducted one-on-one, door-to-door, this all-out war aims to mobilise individuals to control their own health and, to that end, has reached more than 1.5 million of 16.5 million Zambians.

Hand-scrawled signs point to an agony of lost babies: "beloved daughter Gladsy Mainza" aged two; nearby lies Tia Jonga, who died on Nov. "In our hospital setup, every bed space was taken by someone with HIV.

In the mortuary, every day, two, three dead bodies," Stephen Shajanika, Mazabuka's District Health Commissioner, recalled in an interview.

"We needed to organise ourselves like military and show we are in a serious business, fighting a fight with a clear line of command." MILITARY CAMPAIGN At the grass roots, DAPP field officers go hut-to-hut to share stories, win trust and encourage testing, carrying mobile testing kits - a finger pinprick - giving results in 15 minutes.

Truckers get free condoms and lessons on their usage while former sex workers tour bars to spread the message, and revered chieftains go public about their HIV tests to smash stigma.

"At the peak of the epidemic, no treatment was available.

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