Drastic measures needed in fight against HIV/AIDS

Published: November 23, 2014

Swazi OBSERVER
Themba Zwane
Original Article:  bit.ly/1r3vbvi

Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially in the country’s continuing battle against HIV/AIDS.

This is more so as latest statistics have revealed that Swaziland has achieved the least in southern Africa with regards to the fight against the pandemic in the last five years.

At a media workshop on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and matters relating to HIV/AIDS, it was highlighted that drastic measures need to be taken to reduce the HIV prevalence rate in the country, like distributing condoms in correctional facilities.

Comfort Mabuza from Gender Links said it was an open secret that convicts engaged in same sex intercourse, especially as part of the initiation for new inmates. “I think condoms must be provided in our prisons to ensure less spread of HIV/AIDS within the facilities,” he said. engaged

Mabuza stated that in some correctional facilities in neighbouring South Africa condoms were provided for the protection of those who engaged in same sex practices. However, he stated that sex between inmates was illegal in South Africa but drastic measures were undertaken to control the pandemic, hence the neighbouring country has less HIV infections compared to Swaziland.
National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA)’s Nokwazi Mathabela pointed out that distributing condoms in the country’s prisons would be a huge challenge as two laws of the country would be broken by so doing.

Nevertheless, she stated that condoms availed for convicts could hugely enhanced the fight against HIV/AIDS. “It might be beneficial to the country in the fight against this pandemic, we must note though that sodomy and sex in prison are illegal in the country,” she said.

Moreover, Mathabela stated that occasionally it was necessary to break the law in fighting diseases like HIV/AIDS and made reference to sex workers.
“Prostitution is illegal in Swaziland yet we collaborate with the ministry of health in the delivery of condoms to their working sites, which has been very helpful in minimising infections,” she added.  His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS) Public Relations Officer Senior Superintendent Bongani Khumalo rubbished the idea of introducing condoms in prisons. “Is sodomy allowed in this country?” he asked rhetorically. happen

Khumalo noted that the provision of condoms in correctional facilities would be in breach of the law. “It cannot happen if the law does not permit sodomy and sex in prisons,” he said.

Asked on how they hoped to control the spread of HIV/AIDS because it was an open secret that convicts engaged in sex, Khumalo said there was no proof to substantiate these allegations.
“If we could have proof that such acts occur, I would be in a position to comment appropriately,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mathabela highlighted that epidemic drivers and factors influencing the spread of HIV were high average viral load among people living with HIV. Also, she stated that low and inconsistent condom use, gender inequality, early sexual debut and intergenerational sex were other contributing factors.

In addition, she said gender-based violence (GBV), low levels of male circumcision, HIV stigma and discrimination, sex work and men who have sex with men were also epidemic drivers.

Full text of article available at link below:  bit.ly/1r3vbvi

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