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Men urged to take more responsibility in curbing HIV/AIDS
Monday 10 January 2005
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SWAZILAND: Men urged to take more responsibility in curbing HIV/AIDS


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



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Men are encouraged to assume greater role in the fight against HIV/AIDS

MBABANE, 7 October (PLUSNEWS) - Heterosexual men need to take more responsibility for trying to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, according to regional health experts.

At a workshop held in Swaziland's capital, Mbabane, on Thursday, health workers, government officials and AIDS activists called on men across the region to assume a greater role in tackling the disease. At 38.6 percent, Swaziland has the one of world's highest rates of HIV infection.

"As we know, in sub-Saharan Africa HIV is spread primarily through heterosexual means and, again, it is well known that Africa, by and large, remains a patriarchal society. Hence, the participation of men in matters of sexual and reproductive health is crucial," Swaziland's Health Minister, Sipho Shongwe, told participants.

He noted that anti-AIDS interventions had so far focused on empowering women to negotiate safer sex with their partners.

The principal secretary for health in Swaziland, John Kunene, explained the challenges of addressing male sexuality in a traditional society such as Swaziland.

"In this country various programmes have been established to ensure men's constructive involvement in sexual and reproductive health matters, and the involvement of various traditional structures in these initiatives has ensured that our approach is culturally acceptable, even as they embrace universally agreed upon principles," said Kunene.

The workshop, a joint initiative between the health ministry and the National AIDS Commission, funded by the British Commonwealth Secretariat (COMSEC), was aimed at increasing HIV/AIDS awareness and bolstering gender sensitivity among males in the country.

There were concerns that ongoing ignorance about how HIV was transmitted, coupled with poverty, unemployment and alcohol abuse, contributed to risky sexual behaviour by males.

"I would like to note that a man under the influence of illicit drugs and umqombothi (a traditional Swazi brew made from sorghum) will most likely be violent to his sexual partner, and may not be able to control his sexual discretion. He is also likely to engage in forced sexual relationships and rape," commented Joseph Amuzu, the Commonwealth Chief Programmes Officer.

Women's groups have welcomed the greater emphasis on the role of men in fighting the virus.

"It's about time that men recognise that AIDS in Africa is a heterosexually transmitted disease, and it is usually the man who is the one who infects his partner. It is important not to blame, but to understand; it is important not to condemn, but to effect change in attitude and behaviour," said Sempiwe Hlope, founder of the women's HIV/AIDS support organisation, Swazis for Positive Living.

Hlope herself was infected with HIV by her husband, who denied responsibility and accused her of having an affair with another man.

[ENDS]


 
Recent SWAZILAND Reports
Prominent traditional leader condemns AIDS drugs,  30/Dec/04
Army unveils HIV/AIDS policy,  24/Dec/04
Swazis strengthen efforts to fight HIV/AIDS stigma,  19/Nov/04
Construction declines as impact of HIV/AIDS builds up,  5/Nov/04
Grassroots approach to orphan care,  22/Sep/04
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