‘Turn to cultural practices for combating HIV’

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Cultural practices can be a good source of combating the spread of HIV, an HIV/Aids researcher and author has said.

In his book HIV and Behavioural Change, Clarence Lossli says certain aspects of cultural practices can facilitate the spread of HIV while at the same time culture can be a resource which could strengthen the fight against the pandemic.

“Community-based leaders need to be more involved in the development of strategies to enable sexual attitudes to be modified,” said Lossli.

“Communities should be encouraged to gather and reflect on solutions, particularly paying attention to needs like gender relations, given the pain women experience.”

Lossli said change of behaviour was not an easy task and was a long-lasting approach which should be done over generations at every level like households, communities, national level and inter-regional levels.

“Awareness campaigns are not enough. There should be attempts to make inner transformations, not just in rituals but in values and attitudes, and that means backing up women’s weaknesses and men’s power within the society,” he said.

Lossli said in Africa it was imperative to stimulate debate on the most taboo subjects of sex and sexuality.

“Concerning Africa, the challenges are numerous because habits, social conditions and the rules of patriarchal communities are not easy to address. Fortunately, it is possible to adapt the culture to reality, to invent a new sexual standard: the safer sex,” he said.

National Aids Council coordinator for Bulawayo Sinatra Nyathi last year said a good communication environment in communities and families could help cascade information about sexual reproductive health.

She said it was important for families to discuss issues to do with HIV/Aids at home as it would help sick members of the family to go for testing and counselling and also to get knowledge of how anti-retroviral treatment could be administered.