Muslim women in Malawi have bemoaned the tendency of other men who refuse to go for HIV testing together with their spouses.
The women said this at Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) workshop for Muslim couples which was organized by Mai Aisha Sisters Youth and AIDS Program (MASYAP) in Blantyre.
Most of the Muslim women who spoke to Malawi Muslims Official Website after the function admitted that their husbands do not have interest in going for HIV testing or allowing them to do so without their consent.
One of the victims Samiah Mkunga confirmed the existence of the problem and said that she has the evidence from fellow Muslim women.
“This is really happening, more men refuse to go with us for HIV testing and if you go alone and found that you are infected with HIV they chase you away from the house which is not good because the fight against HIV/AIDS lies in the hands of everyone,” she said.
In her remarks, MASYAP Assistant Coordinator Jean Mamo said indeed her organisation receives such reports that many men shun HIV testing.
She said this is a very worrisome development because there is nothing that women can do since they still want to save their marriages.
“It is important for couples to go for HIV testing together. We can empower women with information about HIV/AIDS but it is nothing if we do not involve men hence the reason for organizing this workshop for Muslims couples to change their mindset on issues to do with HIV/AIDS,” she said.
Mamo added that MASYAP encourages couples to be faithful to each other and advises them to use protective measures if they cannot control themselves as one way of dealing with the spread of HIV.
She further said that they have arranged a number of meetings to reach out to many people as possible in order to enlighten them on issues about HIV/AIDS.
Maggie Kanyenda HIV Counselling and Testing Coordinator for Blantyre District also said they are facing challenges because most women are afraid to come with their husbands for Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres (VCT) for fear of being divorced or even being chased away from their homes.
“As a result they do not tell their husbands when we find them with HIV and this is dangerous for their lives because they do not take medication properly. It is difficult for us to find men because they are busy people but what we actually do is to encourage women to convince their husbands to come with them for HIV testing,” she said.
Kanyenda said this is good for their own health because they plan together if they know their status and it also helps them to get treatment at the right time if they are found with HIV.
Ibrahim Siyabu one of the men who attended the workshop said indeed there are such type of men who do not love their wives by refusing to go with them for HIV testing.
However, he attributed the trend to lack of information and interest in matters to with HIV.
“There are very few Muslim men who realise the importance of going to VCT together with their wives. But I think the problem lies on that most of us do not have enough information or that we are just not interested in matters to do with this deadly pandemic. Because when you go together with your wife it will help you to plan your future properly if it found that one or both of you are HIV positive,” he said.
Siyabu therefore commended MASYAP for holding the function.
“I think this is the only right way to deal with the trend because having workshops like this one helps to change the mindset of many men. So, I encourage MASYAP to continue doing this noble course because to me, I take it as an eye opener. I have learnt a lot of things that I didnt know and that I was among those men who shun away from going to VCT but now I am completely a changed man,” said Siyabu.
Robert Kumwenda reporting