In Zimbabwe, some men living in the rural area of Dzandura in Seke are being accused of stealing anti-retrovirals (ARVs) including nevirapine. The drugs are used to fight the HIV virus which can lead to the disease AIDS. The medications were given to their spouses, after the men declined to go for HIV tests and counseling. The allegations have been made by the Federation of African Media Women in Zimbabwe (FAMWZ), which runs an HIV/AIDS outreach program. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Irwin Chifera in Seke, Zimbabwe, tells us FAMWZ director Angela Makamure attributes the theft of anti-HIV items to local residents’ lack of knowledge and existing misconceptions about the pandemic.
Several women confirmed that their spouses, brothers, uncles and sons are still too shy to go for HIV/AIDS tests.
Resident Jennifer Chikomo explains, “Most men here don't have information on HIV/AIDS because they don’t attend awareness campaigns or trainings that we get from HIV/AIDS groups and organizations such as FAMWZ. This is why they end up doing things that are not permitted.”
Chikomo's concerns are shared by Alexander Musara, who acknowledges most local men are ignorant about the spread of the disease. He's called on the government and AIDS service organizations operating in the area to target these men. If the organizations fail to do so, says Musara, they'll never win the fight against HIV/AIDS.
But a young father in the area, Frank Tapfuma, says women and wives also have a duty to educate their spouses about the pandemic. He says it doesn't help if one half of a couple takes ARVs without involving their partners in the process. He says, ”Women are afraid of telling their husbands that they have tested HIV positive and this is why they end on ARVs without the knowledge of their spouses. But at the same time I think men need to know so that they are also taken on board so that they both improve.”
Evelyn Mashamba works for The Center, a Harare based HIV/AIDS service organization. She says she's worried about Dzandura residents who may be taking ARVs without having gone for an HIV/Aids test.
”It pains me that some of you are stealing ARVs or Nevirapine from your wives. Nevirapene is just for preventing mother to child transmission at birth. The danger is if you take ARVs without having gone for tests your body will become resistant. Then, when you eventually get tested you will see that you would require more expensive ARVs because your body will be resistant. So, it's in your best interest to go for tests first.”
Makamure adds that because of this information gap between women and men in Dzandura, her organization has taken on board groups such as Padare Men Forum and other HIV/AIDS groups to ensure that men are empowered.