WASHINGTON DC —
Patriarchal order has left many Zimbabwean women more vulnerable to HIV infection as they remain subservient to men with no negotiating power in sex matters.
Millicent Shoko, a Zimbabwean woman working with people living with HIV, told VOA Studio 7 men’s sexual freedom coupled with poverty have exposed more women to HIV infections.
Shoko said the plight of women and HIV can only be overcome if men are involved in programs aimed at women and HIV so that they are the one who come up with solutions they find suitable for their problems.
Shoko noted that it was a losing battle to try to empower and educate women alone leaving men out of the programs.
"Many women are aware of the existence of HIV and have taken it upon themselves to get tested, but the problem we found during our encounters with some of the women was that they were either afraid to tell their partners of their HIV status for fear of being blamed or their partners would not agree to using protection during sex."
"We can only defeat the fight against HIV/AIDS if all stakeholders are involved," Shoko emphasised.
Shoko also noted that sometimes women are forced into prostitution due to poverty, hence they put their lives at risk so that they can provide for their families.
"With the current state of the economy in Zimbabwe, many women, especially widowed women who relied on their spouses for subsistence, have found themselves forced to engage in sex in exchange for money or favours, putting their lives at risk," Shoko sadly noted.
A study on human rights and gender issues in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe by World Health Organisation found Sub-Saharan Africa to be the only part of the world where HIV prevalence and AIDS deaths are higher for women than men.
The study further indicated that these countries have acceded to the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, but only a few have applied domestically the international conventions to which they agreed and their laws keep women subordinate to men, thus putting them at increased risk of HIV.