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by EDITH, Benin Jul 19, 2005
Health   Opinions
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There are now over 40 million people living with HIV and about 95 percent of them are in developing countries. Globally, 24.8 million people have died of AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic out of the estimated 40 million people living with the virus, women make up nearly half of the infected adults worldwide. The number of women infected with HIV has risen in every region of the world over the last year.
In Africa AIDS has already claimed more than 18 million lives. Despite promising developments in the past year, it has been observed that more than 9,000 Africans are newly infected each day. African has a total number of 28.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS showing an increase of 30 percent over five years according to UNAIDS report.

Women make up 58 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-sahara Africa as reported by UNAIDS.
Benin is among the few African countries where HIV prevalence rates have remain relatively low. In 1996 an estimated 108.000 adults of 15-49 years were living with HIV/AIDS and over 24,127 cases of full blown AIDS have occurred in adults and children since the beginning of the epidemic.

Over 21,500 of these cases have resulted in death. In 2003, people living with HIV/AIDS in Benin was estimated at 68,000 and 5,800 deaths were recorded. And there has been a great increase in the number of AIDS patient. As at the first quarter of year 2004 the number is estimated to rise up to 183,000 people including women, men and children.
It is estimated that about half of the HIV/AIDS cases are women. The prevalence rate among women in 1996 was 3.15 percent including pregnant women. And there has been an increase in the rate of infection among women over the years.

Women are reported to be at a greater risk of contacting HIV/AIDS than their men counterparts. Biologically, women are found to be more vulnerable than men to sexually transmitted diseases and other infections like HIV. Women are often sexually abused by men. There are numerous cases of rape and sexual abuse melted out to women exposing them to risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Pregnant women who are HIV-positive have a very high probability of transmitting HIV to their children during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. They also face the stigma and rejection from the families when it becomes known that they have HIV/AIDS.

The African women have been on the receiving end. Certain cultural factors make the situation especially dangerous for them. They are often ostracized abused and disregarded. Women in the contemporary African society are not given equal rights, opportunities and treatment as men often societal restrictions and taboos are put in place to limit them. In some areas in Benin women are not allowed to discuss sexuality and they risk abuse if they refuse sex.

Men commonly have many sexual partners increasing the risk of HIV/AIDS infections. In a polygamous society like Benin men marry more than one wife putting women at a greater risk of infection. Some religions advocate polygamy whereby a man is entitled to marry many wives, his numerous concubines not inclusive in this case.

There is a common parlance here “deuxieme bureau” which means second home. In this case a man lives with his first wife and hires another house for his second, third wife or mistress as the case maybe. Often he goes there to visit or sleep with her. The woman may have other men lovers whom she dates in the absence of her main husband or lover. This situation increases the risk of HIV/AIDS infection.

Culturally, a woman may marry and live with her parents. She and her husband exchanges visits and the regularity of her visits to the husband is often dictated by him. This set up gives the man the opportunity of keeping other relationships which may equally be applicable to the woman. This increases the risk of HIV/AIDS infection.
Men normally have sexual relationship with young girls. Some of them like to have sex with young girls whom they feel are not yet spoilt. And they often entice them into sexual relationship with money or other material gifts. Such relationships expose the girls to risks of HIV/AIDS infection.

Young Beninoises are picking up the modern flare in fashion and clubbing. These cross-cultural infusions are not without their attendant risks and consequences. They have become more attractive, noticeable and easily enticed by men. A lot of them, even the inexperienced ones after wild parties are not protected and risk being infected. Early marriages for girls and unfaithfulness or infidelity on the part of some husbands also contribute to high infection rate.

There is the case of a young girl who contracted HIV/AIDS from her husband who later left her. The girl was pregnant and went to stay with her husband’s family. When she gave birth to the baby, the baby died of HIV/AIDS complications. The young girl was thrown out by her husband’s relations when it was found out that she has HIV/AIDS. She had no other alternatives but to live alone and find means of survival. She started sleeping with other men and became pregnant. The question now is how many people have been infected through this woman? How could this vicious cycle be stopped? Some infected persons are known to have sworn to distribute the virus as many as come their way. How could this wickedness be stopped?

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Writer Profile

I am a Nigerian journalist presently residing in Cotonou Benin Republic. I completed my secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria.

I worked in Champion Newspapers Limited from 1992 to 1994 as a news reporter. During my stay at Champion Newspapers, I was exposed to basic newsrooms operations, including coverage of field assignments such as newsgathering and generation from beats like economy, business reporting, politics, feature and opinion writing and news monitoring on radio and television. I displayed a great amount of skill in all my assignments.

I worked with the Federal Radio Co-operation of Nigeria (FRCN) as a scriptwriter, presenter and a producer of Children’s Programme, Today’s Woman, Health Corner and Radio Drama from 1994 to 1999.

I later joined my family in Cotonou Benin Republic in 1999. Due to the love I have for my career, I did not allow it to die or sweep away. I continued from where I stop in Nigeria.

Presently I am working with Capp Fm 99.6 as a presenter in Cotonou Benin Republic. I joined Capp Fm 99.6 in October 1999. Contributing Editor Les femmes magazine South Africa.
I am a member of African Economics Editors Network (AEEN) and International Women Media Foundation (IWMF) USA.

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