Umzingwane District primed to be HIV hotspot
from boreholes or wells or dams with 20litre pails of water on their heads every day.
Living in urban centres with their husbands also reduces the risk or possibility of the husbands living (and sharing their meagre financial resources) with what current sociocultural parlance calls “small houses”.
The exodus by women from rural to urban areas has contributed greatly to the prevalence of prostitution in rural sectors and towns. But HIV and Aids and TB are not as alarmingly high in urban centres because of the accessibility of medical facilities and services.
Urban-based prostitutes and their clients are financially more able to pay for medical facilities and services than those in the rural areas. Prostitutes’ clients are generally prepared to pay promptly for services rendered in certain circumstances such as at night clubs and brothels.
Out there in Umzingwane, where several men target one prostitute, protective material such as condoms may be in short supply more often than not, and in cases where sexually transmitted diseases are experienced, medical facilities are not as accessible; if they are, they may be unaffordable.
The HIV and Aids and TB rate of occurrence in Umzingwane can be easily understood by a study of the area’s socio-economic dynamics.
That can be done by primarily rural district councillors and MPs with the active involvement of village heads, headmen, chiefs, with the district medical officer as the co-coordinator.
Such a study would enable the relevant medical authorities to identify the socio-economic groups or social classes responsible for the spread of the pandemic.
Armed with that and other relevant information, the appropriate authorities could effectively strategise to arrest the pandemic’s devastating development. We should acknowledge that to combat the spread of HIV and Aids and that of every sexually transmitted disease, it is necessary to use a variety of methods, fora and techniques.
High sexual values should be inculcated into the people by cultural and spiritual leaders. The main forum here is the church and t r a d i t i ona l centres of worship including “kudaka” such as Njelele, Ma n y a n g w a , KaNtogwa, kuMutiusinazita, kaMnyanisa or wherever else.
Conventional churches should play their we l l - k n o w n traditional role by highlighting the Christian virtue of sexual abstinence until after marriage.
Chiefs, headmen and village heads have a duty to protect their respective communities from reckless “religious” leaders who lure credulous people to nocturnal bush prayer sessions where some self-anointed pastors rape and traumatise young women. Christian spiritual and moral guidance is done in broad daylight and not at the dead of the night.
Schools have their normal role to teach children about their bodies, about the risks of pre-marital sexual intercourse, about the high social and cultural values of a self-respecting Christian life.
Teachers should emphasise that those who promote and practise sexual promiscuity are anything but Christian.
Having said all this, what is the future of the people of Umzingwane District? What do the district’s chiefs, headmen, village heads, councillors, MPs, church-leaders and parents in general say about this tragic health situation?
The opinion of this writer is that all the leaders of that district should put their heads together and come out with a proposal to deal with the tragedy. The approach should be all – inclusive and non – partisan.
The solution should be three – pronged: curative, corrective and rehabilitative.
Those suffering from the pandemic have to be treated. That requires appropriate and adequate facilities, and the provision of sufficient and efficient medicines.
Corrective measures involve sensitising the population with the aim of changing people’s social moral behaviour. Although that is difficult, it is not impossible if a programme can be designed to do so and thereafter is strictly followed.
Rehabilitative measures would target especially destitutes and invalids. Orphaned children would also be a social group to be rehabilitated.
For such a project to succeed, it should be multi-denominational or, even better, nondenominational, non-partisan, communityled but with the Government’s blessings.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo - based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. firstname.lastname@example.org