The un­ac­counted for gen­er­a­tion

In a vil­lage in Nyazura in Man­i­ca­land, young chil­dren in­dulge in role­play­ing games com­monly called “mahumbwe” - like kids all over Zim­babwe.

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - HEALTH - Em­manuel Kafe

Un­for­tu­nately, for a 13-year-old girl, who we shall call Rudo, that role-play­ing led to a life chang­ing en­counter.

Mim­ick­ing what she and her friends had seen at home, Rudo - at age 14 - en­gaged in sex­ual in­ter­course with a 14-year-old boy as part of mahumbwe and con­tracted HIV.

Her mother re­calls spend­ing huge sums of money on drugs, tra­di­tional heal­ers and prophets when Rudo’s healthy started de­clin­ing.

“First was a ter­ri­ble fever, then a per­sis­tent cough and skin rashes. No­body thought it could be HIV con­sid­er­ing that no-one in the fam­ily is HIV-pos­i­tive. It was af­ter I took her for a full blood test that we were told she was pos­i­tive,” she said.

Upon prob­ing, the mother who we will iden­tify as Mon­ica - said her daugh­ter told her of sex dur­ing mahumbwe.

“Per­form­ing the roles of a mother to a fam­ily dur­ing their games, she was hav­ing sex­ual in­ter­course with dif­fer­ent boys, who acted as fa­thers,” said Mon­ica.

Role play­ing games are ma­jor as­pect of child­hood de­vel­op­ment. It is how they make sense of the world around them and start adopt­ing gen­der roles that their par­tic­u­lar so­ci­ety pro­motes.

Sadly, HIV and Aids aware­ness has not found space in these games.

Health con­sul­tant and HIV and Aids test­ing coun­sel­lor Dr Melba Sibanda says the prob­a­bil­ity of a mi­nor pass­ing on HIV to an­other is high.

Many chil­dren en­gage in sex when role play­ing, and be­cause their bod­ies are not hor­mon­ally ready for in­ter­course, much bruis­ing may oc­cur, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of trans­mis­sion of in­fec­tions.

Sex­ual re­pro­duc­tive health spe­cial­ists are of the view that menar­che, the on­set of men­stru­a­tion, also de­ter­mines mi­nors’ vul­ner­a­bil­ity dur­ing sex.

Dr Sibanda says girls can be­gin men­stru­at­ing as early as age 8.

“At 11, Rudo as you have ex­plained, was at high risk if the boy was HIV-pos­i­tive, as they al­lege, and if there were sem­i­nal flu­ids con­tact,” she said.

Dr Sibanda be­lieves chil­dren be­low the age of 13 have been ne­glected when it comes to HIV and Aids is­sues.

Most data and in­ter­ven­tions con­cen­trate on mother-to-child trans­mis­sion and chil­dren born HIV-pos­i­tive. Af­ter that, fo­cus is on teens. Lit­tle at­ten­tion, it seems, is be­ing paid to chil­dren born HIV-neg­a­tive and who are aged be­tween eight and 13.

The UN’s Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals in­clude a drive to en­sure zero HIV in­fec­tion by 2030.

This will re­main unattain­able for as long as there are gaps in aware­ness cam­paigns.

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