No programmes targeting musicians

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The trend that has been happening in the Zimbabwe music fraternity since the advent of HIV and Aids to date makes my heart very heavy. This is more so when there is a lack of a specific HIV prevention strategy targeting musicians.
In the past the HIV pandemic has wreaked havoc in the music fraternity and a number of icons and upcoming artistes alike have died as a result.
While in the past I have noted with utter shock as many musicians succumbed to the virus and finally died of Aids-related ailments the recent developments in 2010 have inspired me to pen this article and break my silence for a very long time.
As a development practitioner with specific interest in HIV prevention I got highly disturbed with the issues surrounding Josphat Somanje’s alleged infidelity and many young musicians’ multiple concurrent sexual partnerships (MCPs) that are all over the news in recent weeks.
The first issue that caught my attention was in the H-Metro (March: 2010) which exposed Josphat Somanje’s infidelity as he was caught by his wife in the act with a girlfriend popularly referred to as ‘small house’.
Then, barely a week after disclosing his HIV status Tongai Moyo reportedly had a domestic dispute with his wife Barbara over his intention to bring a second wife into their home. This unfortunately resulted in Barbara commiting suicide.
All such unfortunate incidents to me, are a clear indication that some of these musicians will never learn that the HIV pandemic is a real menace in their industry and a threat to their existence.
It is against such an upsetting background that I have noticed a missing link in all the HIV prevention efforts that are being made by the country through concerted efforts by the government and a myriad of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Aids service organisations (ASOs) in Zimbabwe.
In as much as Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in southern Africa that has managed to bring down its HIV prevalence to 13,6% from about 30% in the early 80s I feel that there is still a gap in HIV prevention efforts in the music fraternity.
The case of Josphat and Tongai alluded to above are just but a tip of the iceberg of what is happening in the industry. It’s surprising to note that while Zimbabwe has joined other African countries in denouncing the practice of MCPs, most of our musicians in Zimbabwe find it fashionable to grab as many wives as they wish.
I don’t have anything against musicians in Zimbabwe but I think that some behaviours that are being exhibited by some of them dampen all the efforts that we are making as a nation in educating the sexually active groups to desist from having MCPs thus reduce the spread of HIV and Aids.
In fact if a research was to be conducted it would indicate that while everyone is vulnerable, musicians are more vulnerable to HIV particularly given the prevailing scenario that has been captured above hence a strong need for HIV prevention programmes.
I therefore think it is imperative for those NGOs that are implementing HIV prevention programmes to make their presence felt in the music industry as a matter of urgency.
There is no doubt that if the many HIV prevention programmes currently being implemented in the country are also directed at these musicians/music bands this will go a long way to change some of the risky practices obtaining in the sector and consequently reduce the incidence of HIV.
Having MCPs increases one’s chances of contracting HIV and research has pointed them as one of the major drivers of HIV in southern Africa particularly Zimbabwe.
Henceforth the fact that many of these musicians defy the call for all and sundry to be faithful is a clear demonstration that we still have a long way to go in the fight against HIV.
Ideally, musicians are supposed to be role models and walk the talk. We are supposed to learn from them not only through their music alone but also through their deeds.
Imagine what comes into one’s mind now when they either hear Tongai Moyo or Josphat Somanje’s songs or just the mention of either one of them. Just recently I heard one person converting Tongai’s lyrics from Nemumvura mese , naye to Nemuguva mese, naye literally meaning that the musician must follow his wife to the grave since through his song he portrayed her and himself as inseparable.
I wonder what happened to Tendai Westerhorf’s Public Personalities against Aids Trust. I am gradually realising that hers was a brilliant idea that by now would have harnessed all these public personalities in HIV prevention efforts. At least by now if the organisation was still functional maybe she would have found a strategy to penetrate the ‘closed’ circle of the music industry.
The Zimbabwe National Behavioural Change Strategy for prevention of sexual transmission of HIV (2006-2010) clearly identifies leaders as key figures in spearheading behaviour change and as such these leaders are supposed to be role models.
In Zimbabwe most of the musicians are leaders in their own respect. Take for instance Oliver Mtukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo, Leonard Zhakata, Alick Macheso and even Tongai himself.
They are supposed to assist us in the NGO world to transform the lives of many through their music but most importantly also through their behaviours. What I am trying to put across is that it is high time musicians must walk the talk and stop singing what they don’t practise in their homes.
Our hope as a nation is also pinned on musicians in the sense that they have a large following and if they behave well chances are that the fans will also emulate the behaviour(s). It is disappointing though to note that most of the musicians that we have boast of having several wives and children.
Take for instance the urban groover, Rockford Josphat commonly known as Rocqui, reports say the boy is a womaniser and what does that teach, other youths of his age?
I am sure that after chronicling what is happening in the music sector most people will agree with me that there is a serious information gap pertaining to HIV and Aids.
The million dollar question is should we sit and watch while these great sons and daughters perish or should we join hands to educate them?
I know of a number of organisations implementing HIV programmes in all the major towns and even smaller towns and growth points where most of these musicians are residents, please let’s join hands and save our colleagues. For instance you can invite and involve the musicians in all the planning and implementation processes.
I know that they are busy people, but let us just give it a try.