WORLD AIDS DAY – Impact on Women and Young Girls

December 7, 2020

World AIDS Day takes place on 1 December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. World AIDS Day was founded in 1988.

Factors like promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, lack of access to maternal services, culture, illiteracy, and ignorance contribute a great deal to the spread of the disease.

Women are at a higher risk of contracting HIV/ AIDS than their male counterparts. In Africa, women are faced with many challenges that cause them to engage in activities putting them at risk of contracting this virus.  Poverty is a major contributing factor; many women do not own property and rely on men to take care of them. When this does not happen, women often resort to risky behavior to fend for themselves and their children.

We were saddened to learn that many school girls were selling their bodies to older men or truck drivers, so that they could get money to buy sanitary towels. We, therefore, made a point to donate this crucial item to the girls at schools to ensure that they do not degrade themselves to that level. Hopefully, the donated sanitary towels will also protect these girls against the risk of contracting HIV. Men often take advantage of young girls, luring them with goodies only to end up damaging their lives. As these men move on to the next group of girls, the cycle continues. Girls who are after quick cash and a good life easily get caught up in this web. Educating young girls on the need to love themselves and have self-worth is vital. We teach the girls that nothing in life is free unless provided by a parent or trusted relative. Accepting gifts from men such as this, will send the wrong message, and the end result is always regrettable. To those that are dating, we advise them to abstain from sex until they are old enough to make decisions regarding their sexual health.

In many African communities, retrogressive cultures require a woman to be inherited by her brother-in-law once the husband dies, even if the husband died of HIV/AIDS. This practice increases the spread of the disease. Women need to say ‘no’ in such matters. Women from these communities have suffered a great deal as many have succumbed to this disease. The only way to break this curse is to ensure that their daughters are married into communities that do not practice this tradition, saving them the pain and agony of wife inheritance.

Our mothers in Africa live a tough life; most men in Africa practice polygamy. The wife is not allowed to complain or stop the man from the life of polygamy. She must accept the polygamy, and make sure that the man is comfortable at home. She suffers the risk of contracting venereal diseases because the man will most likely, not use protection with the other women while engaging in sexual intercourse. Though the men are aware of HIV/AIDS, they continue to get involved in practices that fuel its transmission.

As we speak to the girls in our mentorship program these weeks before Christmas, our emphasis is on the need to take care of themselves even as schools close for the Christmas holidays.

It is sad to learn that most girls fear getting pregnant more than they fear being infected with HIV/AIDS. The kind of questions they ask are always geared towards forms of contraceptives they can use in order to avoid pregnancy. Our answer is always the same: ‘contraceptives will not prevent venereal diseases, only abstinence will.’ We give the girls as much information as possible, so they are able to make informed choices. Many parents do not have these discussions with their children, and in this regard, the mentorship programs are extremely helpful. We teach the girls that it is possible to curb the spread of this disease by eliminating promiscuous behavior. We also teach the girls not to stigmatize those that are afflicted; theses indivudals need love, not victimization. Stigma causes people to fear testing. Those that test positive fear revealing their results and refuse to go for ARV’s which would otherwise, help improve their quality of life. The fear of stigma runs deep.

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