Last FridayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lead story in The Nation was nothing short of shocking. Personally, I am disappointed that despite government and stakeholder efforts to increase HIV and Aids response, Malawians continue to indulge in such risky behaviour.
As someone who once consistently reported on HIV and Aids and toured parts of this country on a National Aids Commission ticket to find out how various communities and companies are carrying forward their policies on the same, I feel deflated. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s as if all this work and money being put into this fight are for nothing.
If you missed our paper, here is the story; scores of sex-starved men queue up to have sex (sometimes with a single woman) in a nondescript shack at Chikangawa Forest up North. It was reported that most of these men demand sex without condoms. One of the women interviewed revealed that she can take in up to 25 men in one night, one after another. She says she can make more than K120 000 on a good weekend. It was also revealed that women from all over the North trek to the forest at month end for lucrative earnings which can rise up to K50 000 a day! The men, mostly sawyers working with private contractors and others with the Department of Forestry are often starved of sex after being away from their families for so long.
These men are so lustful and desperate for release. As such, they have admitted to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœnot being put offÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ by sleeping with a woman who a few minutes ago slept with another man while they queue outside her shack.
To quote our editorial on the same, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThese embarrassing misadventures border on reckless risk-taking, lack of self-respect and a blatant disrespect for human life even if that life belongs to the very participants of these acts.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
And, while I agree that NAC, the department of HIV and Aids in the Office of the President and Cabinet, The Ministry of Health and civil society organisations ought to work closely with the department of Forestry to curb this behaviour, I hope that whatever policies are arrived at are tailor made to suit the peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s needs.
Poverty, it seems, is the root cause of these romps as it drives women to do whatever it takes in search of a bit of money to look after themselves and their families. Could empowering these women with proper survival skills such as education or entrepreneurship so that they sustain their families without indulging in risky behaviour lead to an improvement in the situation?
The way I see it; informing the Marias and ShakiraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s of Chikangawa of the dangers of HIV and Aids is one thing but when desperation looks them in the eye and they spend several nights on an empty stomach,Ã‚Â all the advocacy in the world cannot stop them from dancing with death in order to make a bit of money.