Social, cultural barriers hinder fight against HIV/AIDS

Rwamagana-As the government confronts the HIV/AIDS pandemic, health officials say a number of social cultural barriers still hinder the fight against the disease.This was revealed yesterday during a campaign organised by Imbuto Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Health to sensitise local leaders about Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of AIDS in Rwamagana.
Local leaders at the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of AIDS meeting in Rwamagana (Photo; S. Rwembeho)
Local leaders at the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of AIDS meeting in Rwamagana (Photo; S. Rwembeho)

Rwamagana-As the government confronts the HIV/AIDS pandemic, health officials say a number of social cultural barriers still hinder the fight against the disease.

This was revealed yesterday during a campaign organised by Imbuto Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Health to sensitise local leaders about Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of AIDS in Rwamagana.

It attracted hundreds of local leaders and religious groups from all districts in the Eastern Province.

Noting the high prevalence of MTCT in the region, Dr. Dina Tuyishimire said that there is need to provide PMTCT education to the society. She observed that this would help society understand the importance of the program to to halt new infections among children.

Dr. Jean Claude Ndagijimana of Rwamagana Hospital, said socio-economic challenges are a barrier in the provision of PMTCT services.

He further noted that the general spread of HIV/AIDS is exacerbated by male chauvinism and poverty in rural areas.

“There are many barriers because of some cultural beliefs, people’s way of life, thinking and even stigma. PMTCT thus faces great challenges from hardcore cultural adherers who don't understand where to draw the line between culture and life-saving practices,” he said

Domittile Mujawamariya, 57, chairperson of an association of people living with HIV/AIDS in Rukumberi sector of Ngoma district, reiterated the importance of addressing the social barriers.

She said that some people are still stuck in cultural influences despite the awareness campaign against the pandemic.

“Men don’t carry out tests because of stigma…it is not in our culture for a man to be ‘shamed’. Yes, people still take the HIV infected as a shame, yet they don’t protect themselves. Condoms were left to prostitutes. This is the core of the problem,” she observed.

John Mugabo, the Mayor of Kayonza District, castigated the continued practice of polygamy in most rural districts despite the presence of deterrent laws.

“Men's role in HIV prevention would be pivotal to changing the course of the epidemic. Unfortunately, most rural men do the reverse.

They rarely test for HIV, marry several wives, have a big uncontrollable family that is susceptible to getting infected with HIV,” he lamented.

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