Mulanje district medical officer Bertha Mvula says abused adolescent girls and young women have little or no bargaining power for safer sexual practices, thereby increasing chances of contracting HIV and Aids
Speaking in Mulanje on Saturday during a YouthNet and Counselling Organisation (Yoneco) Review for Comprehensive Action for Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW), Mvula said gender-based violence (GBV) undermines women economically, socially and healthwise.
“In the previous quarter, 30 girls aged between four and 16 were defiled. Mulanje’s HIV and Aids prevalence rate at 20.6 percent against 10.8 percent nationally is the highest in the country,” she said.
Mvula said girls and young women should be encouraged to break the culture of silence as many GBV cases go unreported, threatening the HIV and Aids fight.
Mulanje Community Policing coordinator Berson Zawanda said in 2017, police handled 242 GBV cases compared to 404 in 2018 and asked stakeholders to intensify GBV elimination awareness.
Yoneco AGYW coordinator Blessings Sabao said another challenge hampering HIV and Aids fight in Mulanje is lack of sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) information.
“There are gaps in our support structures, especially on psychosocial counselling to GBV victims because of lack of comprehensive capacity building among stakeholders,” he said.
The initiative was supported by the Global Fund for HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.