African Women’s Unique Vulnerabilities to HIV/AIDS: by Linda K. Fuller (auth.)

By Linda K. Fuller (auth.)

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12 Sexual violence is rampant, a 2007 National Survey on Violence Experiences by Female Children and Youth in Swaziland reporting nearly half of Swazi women having experienced gender-based violence (GBV) by age 24, and women’s traditionally low status there has been linked to the staggeringly high HIV/AIDS rate. “Swazi tradition teaches submission on the part of both women and young children,” Aderanti Adepoju (1994, p. 162) informs us. For a country “where a husband often has many wives, a widow is often obliged to marry her late husband’s brother, older men often marry girls in their early teens, and women have so little power that they say they often cannot refuse sex” (Phillips, 2006), it is not surprising that, with only a pittance of the national budget allotted to AIDS, the kingdom could implode.

Infant mortality rates (IMR), whereby one child in five has a chance to live to age five (or worse in Sierra Leone), continue to climb in Africa due to the disease—whether by motherto-child transmission or by breastfeeding. We wince at news that one-third of pregnant African women are at risk of transmitting HIV to their fetus or infant during phases of gestation, birthing, and/or breastfeeding—especially when we know that the drug Nevirapine could significantly reduce those rates. “The onset of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its devastating consequences has left the family crying out very loudly for assistance to help it cope, remain solid, useful and performing its crucial roles and responsibilities to its members,” according to Tavengwa M.

Media Action Plan (MAP) on HIV/AIDS and Gender works as a collaborative effort by the Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF) and various NGO partners covering HIV/AIDS and gender. Some of the questions it asks journalists to consider come from SAEF Guiding Principles for Ethical Reporting of HIV and AIDS and Gender (2006): (1) Are the facts and statistics being cited in context, verifiable, and current? (2) If the article includes health or medical claims, has the claim been verified by two or more sources?

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