Would you live with an HIV-positive partner?

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What would you do if you discovered that your wife/husband to be tested positive to the virus that causes Aids?

I have in the past week come across very difficult situations where young men have come face to face with this challenging scenario. Case one involves a 26-year-old Tynwald North man whom I shall call Tatenda who recently had told me that he was planning to marry his long-time sweetheart.

“Mama ndazomuwana chaiye wandinoda. Ende ndipo paperera moyo wangu. (Mummy I have found the one I truly love),” he chuckled as he spoke with me at a roadside in the suburb.

I was very happy for him. He had had a failed marriage which left him emotionally battered. His ex-wife had run off with a white man.

Tatenda however came to my home one early morning last week and told me that he had cancelled plans to marry the new girlfriend.

“We went for HIV tests and she tested positive. I can’t marry her. I am sorry . . .” He sounded victorious but I could not rule out the fact that he had been disappointed. He had made so many plans for this girl and now HIV had destroyed their future.

Friday, as I was coming to work, I passed through a garage to have a car tyre fixed when I related the story above to the young men and women who were at the workshop.

One of the young men said he would never marry such a woman because that would be sentencing oneself to death.

I then asked him whether he had had an HIV test and he said he had never had one, adding that it was mandatory for all his girlfriends to undergo that test.

“I am 25 years old and three of the five women I have dated tested positive to HIV. There is no compromise on that one because marriage is a lifetime commitment and you don’t want to spoil your happiness by taking death into your marital bed,” said Brian Muzamindo, a local technician.

I also recently witnessed hundreds and hundreds of men and women who responded to an altar call for healing from HIV at a local Pentecostal church.

It looked as though the whole church had stood up and moved forward the altar. Both the young and the old went forward, but the majority were women.

Although I did not have the opportunity to speak with any of the women, I could not help but wonder how they had contracted the dreaded condition.

There is absolutely no doubt that some of the women living with HIV and Aids were rape victims when they were still very young.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNaids, is on record as having said: “This epidemic unfortunately remains an epidemic of women”.

According to Avert.Org, at the end of 2009 it was estimated that out of the 33,3 million adults worldwide living with HIV and Aids, slightly more than half are women.

The Aids epidemic has had a unique impact on women, which has been exacerbated by their role within society and their biological vulnerability to HIV infection.

Generally, women are at a greater risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV.

Biologically women are twice more likely to become infected with HIV through unprotected heterosexual intercourse than men.

In many countries women are less likely to be able to negotiate condom use and are more likely to be subjected to non-consensual sex. Avert.Org says additionally, millions of women have been indirectly affected by the HIV and Aids epidemic.

Women’s childbearing role means that they have to contend with issues such as mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

“The responsibility of caring for Aids patients and orphans is also an issue that has a greater effect on women. There are a number of things that can be done in order to reduce the burden of the epidemic among women. These include promoting and protecting women’s human rights, increasing education and awareness among women, and encouraging the development of new preventative technologies such as post-exposure prophylaxis and microbicides. Globally, HIV and Aids is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. The percentage of women living with HIV and Aids varies significantly between different regions of the world. In areas such as Western and Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Oceania, women account for a relatively low percentage of HIV-infected people. However, in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, the percentage is significantly higher.”

Avert.Org added that in 1985 in sub-Saharan Africa there were as many HIV infected men as there were women.

However, as the infection rate has increased over the years, the number of women living with HIV and Aids has overtaken and remained higher than the number of infected men.

“In 2009 there were around 12 million women living with HIV and Aids compared to about 8,2 million men. UNAids estimates that around three-quarters of all women with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Zimbabwe, which lies in Sub-Saharan Africa, is one of regions of the world where the majority of HIV transmission occurs during heterosexual contact. As women are twice as likely to acquire HIV from an infected partner during unprotected heterosexual intercourse as men, women are disproportionately infected in this region.Women often had older partners, and men rarely had partners much older than themselves. Nevertheless, the estimated prevalence of HIV in the partners of unmarried men aged under 20 was as high as that for unmarried women. HIV prevalence was very high even among women reporting one lifetime partner and few episodes of sexual intercourse.”

The other case I came face to face with involved a God-fearing young man who has a fiancée who tested positive to HIV. This man had nurtured this young woman from a very young and tender age but someone defiled her and infected her with the disease.

The young man is so devastated and all he wants to see is his fiancé getting healed. “I am so worried about her,” he says. This man is just but one in a million who has stood by his partner . . . but for how long?

What should he do?

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