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Zambia: Traditional practices and HIV/AIDS
By Yuyo Nachali-Kambikambii,
Zambia Integrated Health Programme (ZIHP)
December 05, 2003
plus traditional leaders gathered in the capital city Lusaka from
November 23rd to 26th, 2003 to amongst other things discuss what
role they would play in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Even after talking
about it at many fora, and discussed it to the point where many
a people think statistics and facts are being exaggerated, HIV/AIDS
continues to ravage many nations, and worse in Africa due to the
Based on estimates
from the United Nations AIDS program (UNAIDS), approximately 65
million people have been infected with HIV since the start of the
global epidemic and at the end of 2002, an estimated 42 million
people were living with HIV infection or AIDS. UNAIDS estimates
5.0 million new HIV infections occurred in 2002. This represents
about 14,000 new cases per day while an estimated 3.1 million adults
and children died of HIV/AIDS in 2002.
In Africa, traditional
cultures passed on from generation to generation have not helped
in trying to 'quell' the epidemic and for a long time now, the people
who could help out in this area have not been brought on board to
headmen, Indunas and many other 'Traditional Leaders' are indeed
an integral part of the fight against HIV/AIDS especially in Africa.
The talks of various rituals that happen and in most cases are STILL
happening, in the rural setups are nothing but ghastly for lack
of a better phrase.
It is also in
this vein that preceding the traditional leaders' workshop, the
Zambia Integrated Health programme (ZIHP) who co-hosted the workshop
also saw it important to sensitise the media on their role in the
fight against the scourge.
that the media was there to educate the citizenry for reasons of
continuity and sustainable livelihoods without which there would
be no hope for our future and most importantly, the media as a mirror
that reflects society to itself should take the advocacy role and
lobby governments on this issue of HIV/AIDS.
support, there will be no hope for the AIDS victims and it's the
media's responsibility to pressurise government to formulate a meaningful
HIV/AIDS policy, prioritise spending on cost-effective strategies
and provide support and care to the vulnerable in society.
It was after
three long days of suggestions, counter-suggestions and even differences
that the traditional leaders issued a communiqué on how they
would proceed after what they termed' fruitful' discussions.
The royal highnesses
agreed to discourage and ultimately do away with harmful traditional
practices such as use of sharps and needles in traditional medicine,
sexual cleansing, widow inheritance, cross-generation sex, dry sex,
early marriages and multiple sexual partners to mention but a few.
that initiation ceremonies for both boys and girls should include
appropriate preventive information on HIV/AIDS. Similarly, the appropriateness
of such ceremonies with regard to the age of the initiate, messages
communicated, practices taught and gender roles should not encourage
risky sexual behaviours.
leaders would from onwards commit themselves to promoting HIV/AIDS
awareness through, inter alia, community meetings, sensitisation
of village headmen, drama, churches, school anti-aids clubs, training
counsellors, support to home-based care, support to orphans and
vulnerable children through availability of communal fields, prevention
of property grabbing and other measures.
Also given the
magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, traditional leaders will work
closely with all willing partners such as non-governmental organisations,
traditional birth attendants, community health workers and similar
others in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In a culture
that believes that women belong to the kitchen, these royal highnesses
scored a first when they agreed to use their authority to enhance
women's' participation in decision making at both household and
community levels. At the household level, women should be given
the opportunity to participate in making decisions in regard to
such matters as when to have sex and to determine the size of the
family and budgeting.
After all is
said and done, the onus is now on the traditional leaders to try
and implement the various resolutions and recommendations to try
and combat the scourge. Although it is sometimes difficult to face
situations with full and complete honesty, it feels good when it
The writer is
the media consultant for Zambia Integrated Health Programme (ZIHP)
Abt Associates Inc.
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