Why Does the Eastern Region of Malawi Has a Very High HIV/AIDS Prevalence Rates

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Opponents of the universal male circumscision in Malawi often cite the eastern region of Malawi districts as the best example as to why male circumscion cannot prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.

The eastern region districts which include Mangochi, Machinga, Zomba and Balaka have a high concentration of Muslims whose males are circumscised as part of their religious rites and one wonders as to why the same districts have a very high HIV/Aids prevalence rates.

One of the arguments that have been put forward is that once the male organ loses its foreskin, it loses its sensitivity during sexual activity, as such the couple never gets satisfied sexually and hops to another person, only to be disappointed again. In the process, the virus spreads unabated.

Others have cited polygammy as the driving factor, yet there are polygammous communities whose status are not as critical as it is in the eastern region.

Others have also argued that the very fact that the virus is rapidly spreading in those areas, is enough proof that aids prevention through male circuscision is just a fallacy.

But why are Muslims themselves upbeat with male circumcision despite the startling HIV/Aids statistics?

It’s because it is factually true that a circumscised male has a less chance of contracting the virus than his uncircumscised friend.

I will not bother you with statistics to back my claims as I have found out that the statistics that are thrown here and there by many commentators are not only unrealistic but are completely baseless. There are put there just to impress the readers but they do not reflect the actual status on the ground.

In this presentation, I will give you only four insights as to why the eastern region is the lost case when it comes to HIV/Aids mitigation measures if radical measures are not taken immediately to address the situation.

a) High illiteracy levels

When Christian missionaries came to wipe Islam out of Malawi through the establishment of schools, Muslims had two choices to make, either to attend missionary schools and be forced to convert to Christianity, or stay at home and preserve their religion. They chose the latter.

Thanks to this heroism, Muslims now constitute an officially 13 percent of the population in Malawi.

Now to effectively communicate issues of national importance to such an illiterate population is quite a huge challenge. The recipients either consider such messages as mere myths or the normal government propaganda intended to brainwash them and therefore they never act upon them.

HIV/Aids messages are therefore one of those noises that are not taken seriously. They show commitment during HIV/Aids workshops but once the facilitators departs, the people go back to their old ways.

b) Initiation camps

This is a sensitive subject but having myself undergone the procedure, I am not ashamed to reveal one of the dirty secrets that happens at that end. It may not happen in all the camps, but the practice is quite common.

The camps are very important cultural colleges and those who went through those camps are very hard working, honest and culturally upright. No wonder, the region has been exporting unskilled labour since the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland todate to Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

But one main weakness of the camps is the subject that encourages sexual conquest in order to prove that you are now a man or woman. You are groomed to become a sexual predator and not to fear a member of the opposite sex.

Some go to the extent of fixing appointments between the boys and girls on the last day of the camp as a starting point. They taste the fruit, and the circus continues….

You have heard of real stories of people who went for workshops in Mangochi and forgot their way home. You have heard of the sexual ingenuity of Yao women in the region, who go to the extent of carrying men on their backs in their birthday suits when going to bathe.

They may have perfected the skills themselves but where do you think they learnt those antics?

The majority of the men that these women sleep with are uncircumscised, they carry the virus, and spread it across the aisle.

c) Lack of a marriage structure in Yao culture post independence

While Islam has a strict family structure, such a structure has diluted in the Yao culture most especially post the independence era. Unfortunately, Muslim leaders are not doing enough in educating the masses about the essence of a strict Muslim family.

I have observed that people marry at will. After a boy or girl graduates from the initiation camp, his/her parents no longer have any control over them. They marry or cohabit at will and parents don’t reproach them. I may have a new wife today, desert the marriage tomorrow and marry another girl a day after and nobody will care about it.

People are marrying not because they want to enter into a lifetime commitment but because it easy to do so.

d) You are treated as an outcast if you can’t prove your procreation prowess

In some areas, you are treated as a minor if you don’t make a woman pregnant, and in the case of a girl, if you don’t get pregnant. Again, don’t be surprised of a high rate of school drop-outs or early pregnancies in the eastern region.

A lot of girls and boys therefore sleep around with multiple partners to get a chance of proving their fertility because of pressure from their parents or peers.

Now we have sexually active boys and girls on the loose, what do you expect to be the results?

CONCLUSION

To say that the male circumscision does not prevent the spread of HIV/Aids by citing the eastern region of Malawi as the basis of their argument is misleading. They are ommitting important elements highlighted in this presentation that have led to such a status.

Any intervention measures that do not collectively address these factors will be useless.

Research in other countries have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that circumscision is one of the HIV/Aids prevention measures that has to be pursued if , as a nation, we are really serious in kicking the HIV/Aids nuisance out of Malawi.

 

Feedback: majeed@malawimuslims.com