Dear Diary: HIV and Me – I know my status: do you know yours?

AIDS Ribbon 3D_Stick figures

Newspaper headline recently: “36 percent of South African women in early 30s have HIV”

Quoting directly from the newspaper the article went on to say . . .
A number of shocking statistics have emerged from a major national HIV study (The SA National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey) launched by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

• More than one third (36 percent) of women in their early 30s in South Africa are now HIV-positive
• HIV incidence (the rate of new infections) is higher among unmarried couples living together than among single people
• Females between the ages of 15 and 19 are eight times more likely to be infected by HIV than their male counterparts
• A disturbing trend among both genders is an increase in multiple sex partners for the 15 – 49 age group
• More males are losing their virginity before the age of 15 years (increased from 11 percent in 2008 to approximately 17 percent now) but girls having sex before 15 years dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent
• More females than before were having sex with men who were much older than them
• 15 – 49 age group: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men infected
• 30 – 34 age group: 36 percent infected
• 25 – 29 age group: 28 percent infected
• 40 – 44 age group: 28 percent infected
• 15 – 24 age group (new infections) is 4 times higher than boys of the same age. Could this be due to the “Sugar Daddy Syndrome”?

Is HIV infection a greater risk for women? If so, why?

• Increase in risky sexual behaviour/multiple sexual partners?
• Infrequent use of condoms?
• Women are more vulnerable to rape?
• Socio-economic issues?

Blood drop

MULTIPLE SEXUAL PARTNERS:
Having sex before marriage and having multiple sexual partners no longer carries the stigma of shame it used to in years gone by. Sound Biblical morals have been replaced by self-centred selfishness in that “I have needs (sexual) which need to be met” and these “needs” don’t need to wait until I am in a committed relationship to be met. Women also bow to pressure from men to sleep with them for fear of them moving on and finding someone else, believing that if they sleep with the man, he will commit to marrying them.

Before long, they find that they have gone through a number of “sure thing” relationships still ending up unmarried in the end. What women fail to understand is that each time they sleep with a man, they are sleeping with all the sexual partners he has ever had in his life. Men are not open and honest about how many they have had so women never find out the truth. If the man turns out to be HIV positive, he more than likely will not even know how he contracted the virus.

INFREQUENT USE OF CONDOMS:
Those in abusive relationships find it difficult to negotiate sex and to tell their partners to use condoms. Some women are forced to engage in unprotected sex because they don’t have a choice i.e. they depend on the man for money (he is more likely the breadwinner in the family).

Women are more vulnerable to rape and therefore don’t have a choice in the matter. They are so busy trying to protect themselves from being raped that there simply is no time to negotiate with the rapist (especially if it is a date rape or husband raping his wife).

Women tend to date older men and therefore are at risk of being infected. Younger men have a lower HIV prevalence.
Rural women vs urban women are more at risk due to lack of education and resources.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS:
Most women are still financially dependent on their male partners and therefore are powerless when it comes to negotiating safe sex. Many women are also living in abusive relationships and fear leaving the man because they think they will not be able to cope on one income so they sacrifice their own health by giving in to the man’s demands regardless of their own concerns.

Blood Droplet_Cartoon Face

TRIBAL CUSTOM/TRADITION:
The Ovahimba and Ovazemba nomadic tribes, based mainly in Namibia’s arid north areas have practised wife swopping for generations.

The practice is more of a gentleman’s agreement where friends can have sex with each other’s wives with no strings attached. The wives have little to say in the matter. The men belive that the age-old custom strengthens friendships and prevents promiscuity. They believe it’s a culture that gives them unity and friendship. It’s up to the man to choose among his friends who he likes the most to allow him to sleep with his wife.

Known as “Okujepisa omukazenda” loosely translated means “offering a wife to a guest”. The practice is not widely known outside these reclusive communities.

Tribal members don’t make random draws to pair couples. They meet in their own homes, while the wife or husband of the other party goes to a separate hut during the exchange. Women cannot object to sleeping with a man chosen by their husbands. Most women are opposed to the practice and would like it abolished.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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