Why Tsholotsho has highest HIV burden

The Chronicle

Lumbidzani Dima, Chronicle Reporter
GROWING up in a poverty-stricken family, and being discriminated against by her own father drove Thabiso Ndlovu straight into the hands of men.

The 21-year-old from Maphane Village in Tsholotsho, is a mother to a two-year-old bouncing baby boy.

Ms Ndlovu said she does not have a father-daughter relationship with her father because he went to prison not knowing that her mother was pregnant, hence he does not believe that she is his daughter.

Telling her story with teary eyes, the young mother said that relationship made her try to find love from other men.

“Both my parents are not working, they have never been employed since I was born, we are just living by the grace of God.

I was so talented in sports, especially netball, but my father was against it. So, one day I fell while playing netball and my knee shifted, my father refused to get me medical care, take me to a hospital or something.

That was the first instance when I saw that my father hates me. Many other incidents followed, such as me learning without a uniform at secondary level while the rest of my siblings had them.

The reason behind his hatred for me is that I was born when he was in prison.

He was arrested before getting to know that my mother was pregnant, so when he was released and found me, he never believed that I’m his despite me being a spitting image of him,” she said.

Ms Ndlovu wrote seven subjects at Ordinary Level, and passed six.

When she asked to write Mathematics exams that she had failed, her father refused.

“I asked to look for any job so that I could earn something, he refused.

At that time, they were not buying me anything, not even underwear, and that drove me straight to the hands of boys because I wanted to feel loved, and to get some money.

I dated cautiously when it came to age, but I was not cautious enough as I got pregnant as soon as I ventured into the dating game.

I gave birth to my baby when I was 19, and luckily the father who now stays in Cape Town, South Africa is supportive,” she said.

Ms Ndlovu said the National AIDS Council (NAC) programmes have taught her a lot, including that no matter what situation one is in they should just abstain. She said she has been taught to negotiate for safer sex by always making sure that she has a condom.

Not everyone in Tsholotsho uses protection as statistics reveal.

Tsholotsho district remains highly burdened by HIV, having the highest HIV prevalence rate in Zimbabwe at 21,9 percent, way above the national prevalence rate which is at 11,9 percent.

Binga has the lowest at 5,3 percent.

NAC Tsholotsho District AIDS Coordinator (DAC), Mr Kelvin Tshuma said spousal separation is the main factor fueling HIV, as there are many injivas in the district who bring the virus at home and spread it.

“The key drivers of HIV in Tsholotsho include low condom use, low risk perception, unequal power relations, high Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases. Above all spousal separation, fueled by outward migration.

Injiva brings HIV to their spouses, and those spouses might be spreading it to other community members,” he said.

Mr Tshuma said in the last quarter of 2021, 143 people from the district were treated for STIs and one was below the age of 15.

“This number therefore makes it very clear that there is low condom use. We however as NAC promote, socially market all HIV/AIDS preventative methods such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, taken to prevent risk of HIV from sex or injection drug use), PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis, medicine taken to prevent HIV after a possible exposure), and condom use.

We have introduced programmes because of high GBV cases and their linkages with HIV, the programmes are here to deal with power imbalances that render women vulnerable to HIV.

Women remain largely affected by HIV in Tsholotsho because of the issues of power,” he said.

Ms Sisolani Sibanda, who conducts HIV/Aids and GBV community dialogues twice a week in Maphane village said lack of opportunities for young people was driving them to take sex as hobby.

“Young girls from this community were lacking knowledge about how they can behave or value themselves.

Boys were busy on alcohol while girls were not attending school, sex became their hobby, most of them would get pregnant. Poverty led many of them to go up to Grade seven and never proceed to secondary level,” she said.

Ms Sibanda said girls made sex their hobby because they had nothing to do as most of them are school leavers.

She said she has more than 20 young mothers who got pregnant when they were no longer attending school, in her class.

Chief Gampu said alcohol abuse was another factor.

“There have been means to contain HIV, but there are chances that ‘injiva’ come with it from South Africa and spread it.

Maybe when they come, they spread it to people who would have become loose after getting drunk, considering that many people drink a lot of beer here,” he said.

Ms Siphilisiwe Ncube (20) from Manqe village also has a child. She said after attending the NAC programmes she has managed to prevent herself from a possible HIV infection by taking in the PrEP before the return of her south Africa based lover.

“ When my South Africa based boyfriend told me that he will be visiting, I immediately went to the clinic for PrEP.

The reason being that I know he loves unprotected sex, but I no longer trusted or trust him while I still love him.

Therefore, that medication was my only escape lane, a helpful one for that matter,” she said.

There is also the issue of inter-generational sex.

Seeing her friends getting money and eating snacks daily during break time, Ms Nomvula Ncube (20) could not wait to get herself an older boyfriend who would give her money as much as her friends received.

She said she never hesitated dating them when approached, never hesitated sleeping with them, and was easily lured into having unprotected sex.

“I started off dating these small boys, my agemates, but they were giving me nothing, while my friends were getting presents, getting money to buy ‘Hellos’ (snacks) every day.

I could not keep on watching and begging from them. I needed my own man.

I got jealous and when a boy who had finished schooling approached me, I never hesitated to start dating.

I gave in to sleeping with him so fast, because my friends were already engaging in sexual activities, so why not.

My boyfriend liked it unprotected, ‘iswidzi esisephepheni asikho mnandi’, he would say. I then got pregnant, and gave birth when I was 17,” she said.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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