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    080888

    Women and AIDS in Zimbabwe.

    Ray S

    In: Tradition and transition: NGOs respond to AIDS in Africa, edited by Mary Anne Mercer, Sally J. Scott. Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Institute for International Programs, 1991 Jun. 15-22.

    Many people at risk of HIV infection are changing their behavior drastically when they are referred for HIV testing, as a result of more access to information. Featured as a theme for World AIDS Day, women are particularly vulnerable, since they have less power than men to influence their interpersonal relationships. Women with HIV/AIDS often are asked to make the unrealistic decision to avoid childbearing, but the status of a women in Africa depends on her reproductive ability. The traditional role of women as caregivers both as professional health workers, or in home care, is critical in HIV/AIDS disease. Preservation of the health of the 5-14 age group, who is uninfected, is a priority. Adolescents must be specially targeted in preventive counseling on the consequences of early sexual activity such as teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Sex education in the schools should start at a much earlier age. Studies in Zimbabwe show that women are being infected 5-10 years earlier than men, and there are even cases in 15, 16, and 17 year old women. Most HIV-infected people are afraid of being ostracized or fired from jobs. Women have lost their jobs when their HIV status became known, although the Minister of Health has issued a directive that HIV infection is not a valid reason for discharging an employee. Women are especially vulnerable because they may be rejected by their families and their partners, while having small children who also may be infected. Empowerment of women is needed so that destructive relationships do not continue only because of economic dependence. Ministries of Health, Labor, and Social Welfare need to develop strategies with NGOs to cope with demand to find resources for increasing numbers of desperate people. Community-based care is ideal, and positive trends are emerging to combat the destructive effects of AIDS that divide families leaving the most vulnerable uncared for.
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