Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

#SexColumn: More must be done to fight HIV/Aids and GBV

By Time of article published Dec 4, 2020

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By Sharon Gordon

I don’t like this time of the year. We are all tired and hoping to go on holiday but still have some work to do. We have just observed International AIDS day and are in the middle of 16 Days of Activism, both a stark reminder of gender-based violence at its worst.

At the heart of all this is sex. Yes sex!

Women are raped, attacked and infected with HIV at an alarming rate. We just don’t seem to have a response that is working. We have programmes, marches and politicians saying the right things but when it comes down to it the reality is – nothing is happening.

What is the point of talking to women about not getting beaten up when they believe they have no alternatives. Why are we not rather talking directly to men. Why are we not making examples of those who do manage to find their way into the courts and why are they not listed on the front page of every newspaper.

We are all complicit in keeping up the status quo. Think about the language we use. A woman falls pregnant, she was raped, she was attacked! We don’t turn it around by saying a man raped her, a man attacked her. We make her the focus instead of finding the perpetrator and shaming him.

Have you ever met a man and someone said – he hits his wife? No, we say, here is his wife and she is abused. See the difference?

What happens when you know that a man abuses his partner, do you still invite him to the braai and treat him as one of the boys? Why are you not shaming him? Is it because you secretly agree with his violence against women? It is going to take men to stand up and be counted if we are going to change anything!

Let’s just talk abut our HIV statistics at the moment. The demographic being infected are women and girls between the age of 15 and 20. (keep in mind that we are not reporting on younger because then our rape stats go through the roof!) These infections account for 25% of infections despite the demographic only being 10% of the population.

Please don’t think that you are immune. The gravest mistake you will make is to think -not my daughter.

She is getting infected by some little punk who isn’t wearing a condom! She probably hasn’t got the confidence to insist because let’s face it not even married women have this confidence. Asking your husband to wear a condom is tantamount to accusing him of having an affair and I promise you he is going to deny it until you contract the diseases he is bringing home.

HIV is not longer the death sentence it used to be. Our ARV programme works well and so we have got complacent, but the disease hasn’t. Education about sex in schools is still taboo despite the fact that we know that they are having sex. We know that they are being infected by men. We know that condom use is not happening. I am constantly flabbergasted by school’s attitudes which is informed by you the dumb ass parent.

Many parents object to sex education at school siting that it is their prerogative to talk to their children and I agree but they are NOT talking to their children. They are either embarrassed or wait till its too late and let’s face it are they qualified to talk about sex. Most children would rather stick pins in their eyes than having to talk about sex with a parent.

Women are not immune to infection either. Most infections are in heterosexual relationships where the woman is largely dependant on her husband for financial support. She will find it extremely difficult to insist on condom use or even an HIV test.

There is hope at hand. It is called PreP. It is a drug which contains two ARVs and has had great success in preventing infection. It stops the HIV virus from replicating in the T-Cells. It is taken as a precaution. If you are at risk then this is your solution. If you are sexually active (or your daughter is) you should be considering PreP.

It needs to be taken for 28 days before it takes effect and for 3 weeks after exposure. It has to be prescribed which in itself is a barrier to use and then the cost is significant. The generic costs about R200 for a month’s course and the other costs R700. I think it’s worth it to stop myself from being infected for ever.

Unfortunately PreP was originally targeted at the most at risk communities, sex workers and men who have sex with men, thus stigmatising usage. It’s a solution to an increasing problem and we need to find a way to destigmatise it.

If you are a woman who thinks her partner is not monogamous this is your protection. You can take it without having to make the accusation.

In these dangerous times this is one thing women can do to protect their sexual health.

I know its hard to face up to the facts but if I had a daughter she’d be on PreP because I would do anything to protect my children.

For those of you who believe that protecting a child is tantamount to giving them permission to be promiscuous – shame on you. It’s this very attitude that has got us here in the first place. Your denial isn’t working. Isn’t it time for change?

Please listen to a podcast on the subject here.

I’d love to hear from you on the subject – [email protected]

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