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Monday, October 3, 2011

Essay on HIV/AIDS Problem in Africa

Essay on HIV/AIDS Problem in Africa

In 2006, the World Health Organization stressed the current reproductive health problem in the world today.  It said that “in many parts of the world the sexual and reproductive needs of adolescents are either poorly understood or not fully appreciated, [and] evidence is growing that this neglect can seriously jeopardize the health and well-being of young people." (Sandra Zerbo 1) Currently, there are four major health problems confronting every woman.  The first is the rising number of HIV/AIDS cases and the second is sexual violence against women, the third is sexual slavery and the fourth is prostitution.  These problems have currently reached epidemic proportions seriously threatening the health and welfare of women all over the world. 

Problems relating to sex and reproductive health are more prevalent in Africa.  According to the United Nations, one in every three African women is beaten, coerced into sex or abused by a relative or acquaintance in the course of her lifetime.  This problem is worsened by the fact that many of these victims of sexual violence and abuse do not even report cases of violence for fear of reprisal, economic deprivation, or physical abuse.   The worst thing is that sexual violence happens even in schools which impede the learning process. ("South Africa-Rights: Girls Endure Sexual Violence in School” 2) 

Naume Ziyambi cites the case of Maria, a 40-year old African woman who is married to a pastor, which helps illustrate the problem of sexual slavery and violence. (p.2)  According to Maria, her husband would usually beat her on a Friday to such extent that she would become incapacitated to move.  On Sunday, she added, her husband would don his dress and preach a sermon in the church.  She usually hid herself from the people.  When people asked about her, her husband would tell the church elders that she was not at home.  He lied to them so that they will not know about his violent and abusive behavior.  When he wanted sex, her husband would want to at the moment and would insist until she submits herself to him.  If she was not around at the time he wants to have sex, he would beat her.  This violence lasted for 15 years. 

The second sexual and reproductive health problem is the problem of sexually transmitted disease. (Sharon Davis 3)  The HIV/AIDS pandemic is also getting worse in Africa.  In an article entitled “AIDS epidemic threatens decade-old sexual and reproductive health targets”, 30 million women out of 40 million of those who have AIDS are African women. 

Naume Ziyambi also cites the case of Joyce, a 34-year old African woman living with AIDS, which may help illustrate this point (p.3).  She explained that contracting HIV/AIDS for her was not impossible as she and her husband do not use condom every time they have sexual contact.  She knows her husband was sick as he had penile discharge and sores.  She asked him about it but he refused to admit about it.  Yet she knew he had a sexually transmitted disease. 

The third sexual and reproductive health problem in Africa is the problem of sexual slavery.  Sexual slavery is when another person is forced against his will and volition to engage in sexual acts with another.  This is most especially common in African communities as women are forced by their families to marry another person in exchange for money or cattle to her family.  In some cases, young women are abducted from rural areas in Africa to be sold to the slave market.  Some are kept prisoners in huts and cabins where they are sold to adults who want to have sex with them (Trevor Grundy 3). 

The fourth sexual and reproductive health is prostitution.  While sexual slavery is the generic name for all forms of forced prostitution, prostitution, per se, is different because it implies something which is voluntarily done.  According to studies, Africa is emerging as a key player in the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation. (Trevor Grundy 1)  The prevalent view is that adults who are scared of contracting HIV/AIDS see children as a better option for getting safe sex compared to older women.  As such, they are willing to pay larger sums of money for sex with younger children under the mistaken assumption that there is lesser chance for them to have HIV/AIDS when they have sex with younger children compared to older women.  (Trevor Grundy 1)  It bears stressing that the problems of sexual violence and sexual slavery contribute to the problem of AIDS crisis. (Wil Haygood 2)

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Root Cause of the Problem
Sexual and reproductive health problems of HIV/AIDS in Africa are reflections of the existing gender inequality and prevailing cultural norms.  The root cause of these problems is that women are still treated as second-class citizens in Africa who exist to provide for the needs of the African male.  Compared to the males, African women have limited rights.  Most of them are uneducated.  The existing culture has left African women in a vulnerable position in the society. 

African culture provides for different social roles between men and women.  The boys are expected to tend to the sheep and other livestock and hunt for food.  On the other hand, women are expected to take care of the household, fetch the water and cook food for the family.  Consequently, boys are raised with the expectation that they will become strong and hardworking so that they can adequately support and provide for the needs of the family.  On the other hand, women are raised with the expectation that they will become submissive so that they can find strong and hardworking husband who will take care of them.  Their role in the African society is secondary.  These social roles and expectations have been embedded deep in the African culture and in their minds such that when these young boys and girls marry and start their own family they also follow the same social patterns they learned from their parents.  These social roles have continued until today. 

By the American standard, this culture is not fair and just for African women.  It is believed that the African society’s treatment to African women is the cause why they are being subjected to sexual slavery, prostitution and exposed to violence.  It is also the reason why African women continue to allow themselves to become subjected to this treatment.  Presently, women are victims of injustice in Africa because the society made them what they are.  These women are victims of injustice also because the society failed to do something that would have helped in improving their situation. 

Promoting Sexual Rights in Africa
The realization of the existing problems in Africa has led some groups to spearhead the campaign for promotion of sexual rights in Africa.  Thus, efforts and campaigns are being made nowadays to address the issues of gender inequality.  Some of these groups are the International Conference on Population and Development and Platform for Action from the Fourth World Conference on Women which spearheaded the campaign for increasing the awareness on sexual rights. (Liz Frank 2) 

According to the Platform for Action from the Fourth World Conference on Women, “The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relationships and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior   and its consequences.” (Naume Ziyambi 4)

Moreover, the Women’s Health Project (WHP) has defined sexual rights to include: the right to sexual enjoyment; the right to protection from the risk of diseases; the right to avoid unwanted pregnancies; the right to not to be forced to have sex through the use of violence and threats of force; the right to sexual orientation; and the right to have access to sexual health information and services. (Naume Ziyambi 4)

Foremost among these rights of women in Africa today is their right to live.  It is worth noting that efforts to control the problem of prostitution, HIV/AIDS, and sexual slavery may have been more focused on treatment and prevention of diseases.  These women are now being looked upon as patients whom the world must take pity on.  They are being advised not to engage sex and become pregnant to avoid the possibility that they may transfer the dreaded disease to their offspring.  It is my opinion that the sexual right includes the right to continue living and to feel that they are alive.  These organizations must never forget the fact that while these women may have HIV/AIDS or may have become victims of sexual violence, they still deserve the right to enjoy sexual pleasure and to have children.  The point is that these women should not be deprived of sexual pleasures and to have children.  The advancements in technology have made this possible for everyone.  They deserve the right to live their life.  

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