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tests : An inappropriate response to HIV and AIDS
September 12, 2005
We write in
response to an article in the Herald
of the 9th of September 2005 about the efforts by
chiefs and headmen in Gokwe to resuscitate virginity testing in
their area. It is true that for both boys and girls abstaining from
sex until entering a mutually monogamous marriage protects against
sexual transmission of HIV. We support and promote abstinence among
young unmarried people but not virginity testing.
Makoni of Makoni District in Rusape has tried to employ virginity
testing as a strategy of dealing with HIV in his constituency but
it has failed. His area has ironically been cited as having one
of the highest prevalence rates in Zimbabwe. In Swaziland, where
girls also go under routine inspections has experienced the same.
What best practices then are the Chiefs in Gokwe taking up from
The young girls
who are being subjected to such violence as virginity testing are
said to be undergoing these tests voluntarily but is it so? Are
they not giving in to these tests for fear of stigmatization, being
labelled and regarded as ‘impure’? The practices are an invasion
of privacy and they infringe on the rights of the girl child. As
an organization we carried out a study in Rusape where young women
revealed that they resent the practice. What is also disheartening
is the fact that those who fail the tests sometimes are victims
of rape and incest and those that rape them are their own kith and
kin but these cases are swept under the carpet. Adding salt to injury
is it not?
Just to pose
a question to the chiefs and all the other advocates for virginity
testing. Must the responsibility of curbing the spread of HIV be
heavily and placed solely on the shoulders of the girl child in
such a manner? What have the chiefs and the wider community done
in their personal lives to show their commitment to the fight against
HIV? How many of them have gone for HIV testing? As adults are we
not the ones responsible for the greater part of the spread of HIV?
What measures are the chiefs putting in place for the promiscuity
of adult men and women which has seen many married people getting
infected on their own marital beds. Not to ridicule these gatekeepers
of culture but are they all monogamists or many of them have more
than one wife, a practice that is also contributing to the spread
Boys are not
being subjected to such intimate examinations and it seems this
has been a way of condoning their infidelity.
these girls’ virginity lets ‘test’ the effectiveness of virginity
testing as a response to HIV and AIDS. How about trying to address
poverty, high rates of unemployment, commercial sex work and low
levels of literacy that characterize the communities in question.
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Action Group fact
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