STIGMATISATION, GENDER EQUALITY AND HIV/AIDS
In spite of different modes to contract HIV, like for instance through blood transfusion, many still relate the disease only to someone’s sexual life as such hold a negative view against victims of the disease.
Despites high awareness levels, HIV/AIDS remain highly stigmatized in Zimbabwe. Victims of HIV are often perceived as having done something wrong, and discrimination is frequently directed at both them and their relatives. Many are scared to carryout HIV test for fear of being socially disoriented, losing their partners or jobs. Those who have not checked their statues do not profess it publicly, since it would seem they do not have access to sufficient care and support.
There is an inclination that the stigma surrounding HIV is gradually diminishing in Zimbabwe, although it remains a significant problem. Various attempts have been made to improve the situation hence the 2005 “Don’t Be Negative about Being Positive’ campaign. Organised by PSI-Zimbabwe, this campaign encourages people to reveal their HIV- positive status and to share their stories.
In Zimbabwe, there are large social and economic gaps between women and men, and this inequality have played a central role in the spread of HIV. Constructive attitudes towards female sexuality contrast with tolerant ones towards the sexual activity of men. As a result, men often have multiple partners while the women have little or no say to instigate the use of condom and sexual abuse, rape and coerced sex are all prevalent
Campaigns on preventive measure that accentuate safe sex by the use of condoms, fidelity for couples and abstinence before marriage; often fail because people do not take into account such realities thus ignore them. This tendency is more applicable to the lives of men folks than those of women. There is also a likelihood of women to be poorer and less educated then their male counterpart, making them susceptible to HIV infection and equally defers their chances to access treatment, care and information.
A report on ‘Women and HIV in Zimbabwe’ by Bassett MT and Mhloyi M from the Department of Community Medicine, Avondale, Harare, Zimbabwe, stated that, ‘the intersection of traditional culture with the colonial legacy and present-day political economy has influenced family structure and sexual relation, and particularly the social position of women…
From Zimbabwe’s historical experience land expropriation, rural impoverishment, and the forcible introduction of male migrant labour fostered new sexual relations pattern, characterized by multiple partners. Traditional patriarchal values reinterpreted in European law resulted in further female subjugation of women with even their limited rights to ownership withdrawn. For many women, sexual relations with men, either within marriage – for the majority or outside, becomes inextricably linked to economic and social survival…
In Zinbabwe, patriarchy and colonialism appear to be the most significant social legacies responsible for the family structure and sexual behaviour associated with HIV infection. The social context of AIDS in Zimbabwe features a migrant labour system, rapid urbanization, constant war with high level of military mobilization, landlessness, poverty, and the subordination of women...’