Posts Tagged ‘HIV and sexuality’

HIV and Culture

door Amanda

More often than not, I find myself wondering about puzzling issues that directly affect me, issues such as why the incidence of HIV and its accompanying rate of infection are significantly high in my country (Zimbabwe) and indeed in the Sub Saharan region of Africa where statistics have shown a high rate of HIV and AIDS.

coupleI have often concluded that some of our widely acceptable cultural practices might actually be contributing to the spread of HIV; take for example the tolerance with which male infidelity is condoned. I have come across some ‘modern’ schools of thought that propose that man is not a monogamous being and that modern restraints on sexual expression are not natural (it is important to note that I am writing based on a heterosexual context). Needless to say, or maybe it is extremely needful to point out that this is an example of a type of double standard that we as women have been trained to accept.

Let me explain, when a man is young he is expected to ‘sow his wild oats’ in other words, he is expected and even encouraged to explore his sexuality and the greater the skill and dexterity with which he approaches this ‘task’ the greater the esteem with which he is accorded. Ironically, the reverence with which a successful player is accorded does not just lie with his fellow men but also with women. Many women want to have sexual affairs with ‘experienced’ men, unfortunately this standard does not hold with men as many men do not want to have sexual affairs with ‘experienced’ women. However, I digress…this is a topic for another day.

From numerous conversations with my female friends and acquaintances from African backgrounds, I have gleaned that it is culturally acceptable for a man to be promiscuous in his marital relationship; however, it is sternly frowned upon for a woman to be unfaithful in her marriage. Let me use an example much closer to home- in Zimbabwe, it is a common practice for married men to have a mistress, in local parlance “small house.” He is expected to cater to her financial and sexual needs and could also father her children; usually however, he does not marry her in the legal sense of the word.

More often than not, the man’s wife knows about the other woman but turns a blind eye and makes statements such as ‘as long as he is taking care of me and my children and eventually coming home to me, I do not care’  and resorts to hurling insults towards the other woman.

Nevertheless, it would be extremely naïve to think that this scenario only occurs in African societies, for as far back as the days of the Pharaohs, men have been notorious for having mistresses and courtesans have been an accepted part of society. I am not implying that we as women should lie back and take our treatment just because that is how it was and shall forever be…I mean that it is important for women to realize that there is always a possibility of this occurring and therefore, to take charge of our lives and be responsible for our health and that of our unborn children.

Unfortunately because our cultural practices tolerate this adventurousness from men, they are at a greater risk of contracting and transferring various kinds of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Therefore, women need to insist on using protection during sexual activity, it is no longer safe for a woman to assume that just because she is having sex with her husband or with ‘the man of her dreams’ she can make do without a condom. Moreover, this is extremely important as in most cases, it is the woman who bears the greater burden from these infections as she is expected to take care of herself, her sick husband and sometimes, her sick children.

With the ever increasing pace of biotechnological improvement in forms of The Pill and other forms of contraception, the supply of sex has dramatically risen and so also has the risk of contracting an STD. It is therefore increasingly paramount for women to expect and demand for sexual responsibility from men and I think that the first step to doing this is for us as women to love and respect ourselves. When we do so, we implicitly relay to men the fact that they have to respect us as well in all facets of life. However, when we do not demand sexual responsibility from men, we tacitly agree that sexual adventurousness from men is the norm and this inadvertently hurts us and our children.

Recently, while having lunch with a friend she remarked on how men nowadays approach women for casual sex while abruptly mentioning that they already have a girlfriend. This indicates the amount of recklessness that accompanies sexual affairs in these times and should make us become more aware and knowledgeable to say no and insist on being treated with sexual respect.

In conclusion, I think it would be important for women to ponder on the risk to our health from socially and culturally accepted sexual practices and decide if these risks are worth it.


07 2015

Women living with HIV: a matter of safety and respect

In 2014 the World Health Organisation commissioned the largest international survey to date on the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of women living with HIV. The survey was designed, led and conducted by women living with HIV.

A total of 832 women from 94 countries, aged 15-72, with another 113 women in focus groups from 7 countries took part in the survey. Violeta Ross (Bolivia) expressed how “This consultation means for me, the opportunity to learn from one and other. Women living with HIV are the best positioned for the design of sexual and reproductive health policies”.

Gender-based violence
The single most prominent finding of the survey was how women living with HIV experience high rates of violence, on a continuum throughout the life cycle: 89% of the respondents reported experiencing or fearing gender-based violence, before, during and/or after HIV diagnosis.

Read more and download ‘Building A Safe House On Firm Ground’ on the website


03 2015