|by Godswill Odeku|
|Published on: May 14, 2007|
|HIV/AIDS AND THE AFRICAN FEMALE
Godswill A. Odeku
With increasing and intense efforts at contemplating and executing interventions the world over with regards to checkmating the spread of HIV/AIDS and other pandemics such as tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes, etc it is becoming increasingly obvious that there exists a special group that could appropriately be referred to as an endangered species. This unique group is spread out across the African continent. You find them in all the subcontinents that constitute the continent. They are the feminine gender represented here by yours truly as the African female.
As the HIV/AIDS pandemic makes its ravaging voyage across continents disregarding racial, gender, social and religious barriers, it has succeeded in eliciting heightened interest and interventions in the areas of medical research, and scaled-up approaches by way of prevention, care and support and capacity building. Various agencies and governments are allocating huge funds to these areas.
A traversing of the African continent gives one a gory depiction of the tragedy the African female is subjected to by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Darfur region in Sudan, Somalia, Congo, South Africa, Kenya, and other southern African countries are flash points as per the harrowing effects of this pandemic. Statistics reveal the no-win situation the feminine gender finds herself. Sero-prevalence rates in various countries indicate the women are more affected by HIV/AIDS.
The African female by virtue of her socio-economic situation finds herself more prone to be infected than the male. She is bothered for sex at the point of seeking employment. There is workplace sexual harassment. As a student, sex is demanded of her in the school for her to get her scores. Even in a normal heterosexual relationship, she is required to give vent to her professed love by mutual self-giving, which almost always translates into physical sexual acts. Socio-cultural practices such as female circumcision, tattooing, early marriages, etc exposes her to infection. The above and the fact of the female genitalia being more or else a receptacle and thus vulnerable increases her chances of infection, including HIV/AIDS.
Infected females are hardly able to access care and support facilities and opportunities due to stigmatization and other hiccups placed by society. On the other hand antiretrovirals are costly and hoarded even when they are provided and subsidized by governments, international development agencies, NGOs, etc. Illiteracy, poverty, political insensitivity, and sundry other factors coalesce to give away the African female with regards to HIV/AIDS.
Were we as a people to demonstrate some conscientiousness towards the checkmating of this pandemic especially as it affects the women of Africa there would be an orchestrated response in terms of providing funds for interventions, awareness creation and sensitization, accessible care and support programmes, strategic capacity building initiatives for organizations working in this area, destigmatization campaigns, enlightenment of both government officials, care-givers, NGOs, and the general public. Added to this would be specialized funding for research work on unraveling a cure for this voracious pandemic in order to ultimately halt its calamitous spread around the continent.
The urgency of these conscientious interventions cannot be over-flogged, as the tragedy engendered by this pandemic is critically obvious. The continent is awash with the diverse ramifications of its horrendous effects and it would imply hypocritical denial and criminal neglect of its facts not to admit its reality and need for an urgent response. The response need not be sporadic or unilateral to the extent there could be a coalescing and coordination of resources for this. Corporate bodies, governments, development partners and private individuals all have a role to play to save the African female nay girl child from imminent annihilation courtesy of HIV/AIDS.
Odeku, Godswill A.
Development Platform for Africa
Port Harcourt, Nigeria