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ZIMBABWE: Stigma prevents PWAs from receiving care and treatment

Photo: WFP
Stigma could prevent HIV/AIDS households from receiving food aid
Johannesburg, 11 November 2002 (PlusNews) - Zimbabwean households already affected by HIV/AIDS and those headed by women, children or the elderly may have difficulty accessing food aid because of stigma, according to a recently released AIDS country profile.

The AIDS Profile Project, undertaken by the University of California San Francisco's AIDS Policy Research Centre, found that despite high levels of awareness of HIV/AIDS, high levels of stigma remained.

Consequently, there was tremendous fear around being tested for HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe. Over 90 percent of those infected are unaware of their HIV status, the country brief said.

Traditionally, sickness and disease were considered punishment by one's ancestors for immorality and unfaithfulness and people with HIV/AIDS were still perceived as having done something wrong.

"Zimbabwe's Tsungirirai AIDS Service Organisation reports that 'HIV/AIDS is a disease of shame. People with HIV are shunned and treated with contempt and described as immoral' Even in recent years, when a sizable number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PWAs) are open about their condition, stigma remains and tends to prevent PWAs from receiving adequate care and treatment," it added.

According to the profile, reports of AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in communal farming communities found that community leaders and tribal authorities at times made discriminatory statements during their funeral orations.

In their responses to the epidemic, many faith-based organisations still found it difficult to address stigma and discrimination towards PWAs, as they could not openly discuss sexual behaviour and sexuality.

The profile also outlined the effects of political violence and the humanitarian crisis on the epidemic.

The country's fast-track land reform programme has been accompanied by large movements of people, regroupings of family units and exposure to new sexual networks. "This population mobility can increase vulnerability to acquiring HIV," the report noted.

HIV/AIDS, drought, fast-track land reform, and the deteriorating economic situation have made most coping strategies "irrelevant".

The extended family safety net and local support networks are now increasingly under pressure, the profile said.

For more information on Zimbabwe's AIDS Profile

The AIDS Profile Project has also developed updated profiles of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Theme (s): Other,

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

Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC