Would’nt the world be a better place if everyone knew their status and were cautious about their health. Too many lives have been ended by the deadly virus HIV/Aids. This week, the world pauses to commemorate World Aids Day and seek to remind all of us to abstain, stay protected and to be faithful to one partner.
Living with HIV is very personal, sometimes lonely and the traditions on the African continent make it even harder as the topic barely makes it to dinner conversation. For a fact, men are typically known for being less conscious about their health but little is said on how this phenomenon imposes heavy penalties on the girl child too.
Women already face challenges of abuse (emotionally, sexually and physical), discrimination in the workplace and carrying the unequal responsibility in taking care of household chores. With HIV/Aids it is also our women who are burdened on a scale of 58% of Africans who have to do life notwithstanding the challenges of HIV/Aids. The reason for this high incidence has to do with the rights of women being ignored largely with the male assuming decision powers in regards to family planning. As such, the girl child has become vulnerable to so many evils at the hands of firstly men and also our systems.
Society has failed in educating the girl child properly when it comes to sexuality. Beyond a doubt, the reality is that young people are having sex – at even a younger age on a daily basis. Education is also skewed towards boys and girls must fend for themselves and make decisions on the basis of second or third hand information. There has been so much emphasis on the boy child and how they can stay safe but little is provided to the girl child. Funding is pushed in advertisements of how to use a male condom. This implies that the boy child is perhaps in charge of sex and this has been a reason why we have reaped the wrong fruits.
“As young girls we are exposed to a lot. Young boys start being alert and they discover feelings for the opposite sex. The trouble here is that these girls look up to these older boys as people who are more matured and can protect them. Personally, I grew up without a lot of fear, disappointment and rejection and that has contributed to the person I am today. But many young girls do not have this. To them, the older boy knows it all and everything he does to her is right. Now also be mindful that the parents sometimes have not also played their role. So you can imagine how this girl’s future will be,” said songstress Adora.
During a PEPFAR HIV/Aids campaign, Adora got the opportunity to engage young girls about sexuality and hear stories of some infected girls. “A lot of the stories are shared about how young people got the disease and it’s so sad. Some are innocently born with the virus. Some are rape victims that were never reported because the perpetrators threaten the victims and so they remain fearful. Others cases are that of girls being introduced to early prostitution at the age of 10. We have children who instead of enjoying childhood, have to think of where they are going to find their next meal and that of their family. As a result, men find their instant need and weakness, and they use it to satisfy themselves with these innocent girls. I heard of a case of a child who started prostitution at the age of 10. She simply knows nothing besides making a living out of sex. They probably don’t know there is this thing called HIV/Aids but this is the reality on the ground,” she narrated.
However, outside the circumstances of age, society has also started to grow a trend of young women who do not care much about their sexual lifestyle. There exists a trend of young girls going to clubs and at the end of the night go home with a random man who has been buying her drinks throughout the evening. The trend poses serious threats to both genders and in whatever manner one wishes to explain the logic behind it, Adora says its clearly a mindset.
“There is a psychological problem with people who sleep around with random people. It is scary because these are things that are happening. Sometimes people just want to prove a point and that is just absurd. Our ignorance sometimes is really very scary. We have become so careless because we think everyone in the world are good people. We are in denial that not everyone is clean. But it is psychological because how do you justify sleeping with someone just because they are cute of or have been pleasant company throughout the night?”
Take charge, Get tested
Its time for women to smarten up and change the subordinate roles they cast themselves in. With more of them leading countries and multimillion dollar companies, its time they took charge of their sexual decisions. In fact, a few have already started by carrying condoms in their purse when going out. The act of carrying a condom is not welcomed in many societies but it speaks to the bigger picture – which is to be protected. “Sometime women are just caught in the moment and before they even think about asking the guy put on a condom, all is done and dusted.”
What has also been heavily debated on is the notion of women fearing pregnancy and not the random infections. As a result, many women has opted to go on pregnancy prevention contraceptives and thus assume that it is sorted. “Firstly, you should just not sleep with any person. We should learn to stick to one person. And if I were to carry a condom, it would be for protection. There are quite psychotic people out there. People have mastered the art of covering up. But growing up in a society where you don’t know who you neighbor is, you don’t actually know until you get to know.”
Adora, who first got tested when she was Grade 11 advises young teenagers to get tested for it is the only way one knows where they stand. She says sticking to the twice a year rule works but one can go even more times.
“What pushed me was just the sense of knowing. It is such a relief to know where you stand. Results say a lot. Results mean a second chance at anything whether positive or negative. At that point you will know how to change your lifestyle, how to change your habits and how to become a better person.”
To the young girl
“My wish for young girls is for them to be more cautious about their health and really think of their body as a treasure and a temple.”
“Appreciate yourself. Know your value at a young age because if you don’t know it, you will be looking for it in the wrong places. Just think of yourself as worthy of one man – the world would be such a better place.”