Living positively with HIV is not the end of the world. That is the message put across by one Fides Chingaipe of Chikaphula village in Dowa District, whose life has not changed since she was diagnosed HIV positive.
She reveals that she enjoys all the luxuries that life has to offer; from having sex to anything one can define as a source of happiness.
She is also a leader. She is the chairperson of a group for people living with HIV in her village called Tikondane Support Group, under the banner of the Ecumenical Counseling Center (ECC) and the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA).
Chingaipe, who openly says that she still enjoys conjugal rights with her husband, highlights that living positively does not take away one’s sexual desires and thanks to civic education from various organisations, she, together with other people from her village, have learned how to enjoy the pleasure that comes with sex while maintaining their immunity to the virus.
She says one of the most effective ways of achieving this is having protected sex through the use of condoms.
Nonetheless, she fears her life could be shortened due to a strange behaviour trending among positive men in the district. The men are now deliberately tearing the tip of a condom secretly before indulging in sexual act.
Chingaipe says she has been victimized by her own husband, who sometimes uses force to have sex with her.
“For instance, when we get the condoms and from the advice we receive from health advisers we are supposed to fondle each other before he puts it on when he is fully aroused and we enjoy together. But now, most of the time he would just say ‘come here I am already wearing a condom’ in a commanding voice, and after the act you realize he had deliberately torn the condom,” Chingaipe narrated.
She highlighted that many women in her support group have complained of the same and some have lost their partners due to the same behavior, after their immunity got weak.
One of the men we spoke to from the same group, who did not want to be named, confirmed that it has really become a trend but the men spare their spouses.
He says most of them only do that when they have a plan to impregnate the woman or need to draw maximum pleasure in the act.
One of the culprits, who chose to remain anonymous, had this to say:
“When you are with a woman and all of a sudden you want to have her without using protection, it is very easy and this is really happening. So, before you sleep with her you would simply tear the tip of the condom…but we don’t do that with our wives because we are committed to protecting ourselves and we respect one another,” he said.
Revelations of such nature have sent shockwaves among the civil society and activists have attributed the development to the absence of laws that can address such scenarios, describing the acts as deliberate and inhumane.
Malawi Health Equity Network – Mhen Executive Director, George Jobe, emphasized that in this day and age, it is almost impossible for people living positively not to know that having multiple sex partners and having unprotected sex is detrimental to their own health.
“It is unfortunate that, in this age, we can have people who do not really understand issues of HIV and AIDS we were under the impression that, by now, people are well sensitized to know dangers of such practices.
“Our message is that when you are HIV positive and you are getting more and more exposure, you are increasing the viral load so these men should know that, in their act, they are also acquiring new viruses which will affect them, their spouses and the other partners,” Jobe said.
Ecumenical Counseling Center Executive Director, Kizito Chilunga, expressed disappointment with the behaviour, stressing that it would fuel the spread of the virus in the country.
“This will promote the spread of HIV/AIDS and we are taking a stand by intensifying civic education among support groups and the community at large in Dowa. We are targeting Traditional Authorities Chakhaza, Dzoole and Mponela so that the trend should be completely eradicated,” Chilunga said.
According to the United Nations Children’ Fund – UNICEF, recent statistics show that there are approximately 28,000 new cases of HIV annually among adults within the age range of 15 to 64 years in Malawi. HIV prevalence among adults falling in the same bracket in Malawi is 10.6 percent. This translates to approximately 900,000 people living with HIV in the country.
The figures prove that there is reason to be afraid, in as far as the spread of the virus is concerned.
More worrisome is the fact that, bound by her wedlock, Fides Chingaipe and the other women in Dowa will most likely die in silence at the hands of their murderous, abusive and insensitive husbands.
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