Umz­ing­wane Dis­trict primed to be HIV hotspot

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion -

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. sg­

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