Getting Jiggy With It
Swaziland has a seemingly rosy culture, a cultural leader that is entitled to a virgin girl every year as if it is a land title he must own but it looks like this culture aspect is causing more harm than good to the small nation.
Swaziland, a landlocked country in South Africa, has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, with 27% of their population living with HIV . Generally they are at the point where Uganda was in the 90s!
Women are greatly affected by the HIV epidemic in Swaziland. Of the 200,000 people living with HIV, 110,000 are women. In the context of the entire population, 31% of all women are living with HIV, compared to just 20% of men. Polygamy and child marriage are very common in Swaziland. These cultural practices put woman in a very subordinate place in society resulting in early sexual exposure and difficulty negotiating condom use. All of these factors increase their risk of HIV. I guess they learn from their king who parades them annually to choose a bride.
More than a third of the population are under 14 years old, and just under half are under 18 years. Only 6% and 5% females and males respectively are over 65 this means most are orphaned and head households at a tender age.
Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence among sex workers in the world, with 70% of this group living with HIV. Female Sex Workers have a high number of partners, with 33% stating that they have an average of six partners per week.
However , important to note is that Swaziland’s treatment programme is 100% funded and procured by the government, without help from international donors
Bye Bye to All, Minus HIV
Uptake of Male circumcision has been a challenge in Swaziland, with a low social acceptance of the procedure. Only about 32,000 men were circumcised through the programme . this was just 20% of the target demographic.Despite around 90% awareness of circumcision, reasons for low uptake include unwillingness because they would still have to wear a condom after all and fear of pain. A belief in witchcraft in Swaziland is also an issue with many men believing that their foreskin may be used for “ulterior motives”.
Swaziland has the highest tuberculosis (TB) incidence rate in the world – with an estimated one in every 100 people developing active TB each year. Swaziland has a dual epidemic of TB/HIV, with 80% of all people who have TB also co-infected with HIV.
Stigma associated with HIV and AIDS in Swaziland prevents many people from being tested for HIV or declaring their HIV status. Swazi traditional opinion links HIV with sexual promiscuity, and often causes HIV-positive people to be excluded from family activities.
It is believed that many people in the country do not want to know their HIV status, and those who do know will often keep it a secret, some even from their sexual partners.
Swaziland is a highly patriarchal society with high levels of gender inequality. Men often dictate women’s reproductive and sexual health, with child marriage and polygamy common. Both of these cultural practices often results in young women marrying older men, who may be having unprotected sexual intercourse with a number of women, and with whom they may not be able to insist on condom use.
Treatment access is often hampered by a pervasive belief in witchcraft and trust placed in traditional health practitioners, of which there are more than 8,000 in Swaziland. According to a 2008 government report, some people are tempted to replace antiretroviral drugs with medicines provided by these health practitioners, reducing levels of treatment adherence. (Source: Avert.)