Malawi’s Resurfacing Cultural Trends May Affect HIV Response

Malawi may face an increased incidence of HIV/AIDS if it is not able to beat down the rearing head of ugly cultural practices that are beginning to resurface again. Practices like Fish for Sex and kupimbira (the former is a sexual transaction where girls and women offer sex services to fishermen in exchange for fish whilst the former allows a poor family to receive a loan or livestock in exchange for daughters of any age) are beginning to resurface much to the alarm of those working on the national HIV response.

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Faith Kalonga, the national coordinator for Association of Young People has expressed her concerns saying that In 2010, parliament passed a Childcare Protection and Justice Act which helped curb the common place nature of this kind of cultural practices. The act protected a child from any social or customary practice that posed harm to the health or general development of the child. The practices largely affects girls and young women which poses a great threat to the country generally. If it was curbed then, it resurfacing poses a serious concern which should be tackled and handled as fast as possible.

Women In Malawi

The report about the practices surfaced following the joint annual review of the national response to HIV and AIDS for 2014/2015 which held in October 2015 in Lilongwe. After a series of field visits conducted in 12 of the country’s 28 districts in September 2015 by a team of representatives from the Malawi Partnership Forum, National AIDS Commission and HIV and AIDS Donor Group, the evidence to support the claim of these practices surfaced. The visit which took place to appreciate the progress, challenges and prospects for scaling up the national response to the epidemic rather pointed to the resurfacing of these trends.

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This is a very serious issue for Malawi as a country, the fact that the practices mostly affect young women and men, the future of the entire nation is just saddening. There is however some hope on the horizon as the government has a 2015-2020 national strategic plan for HIV and AIDS (NSP), which prioritizes addressing gender inequalities and gender based violence as key drivers of HIV, which may make a difference. It would be however unrealistic to ignore the high poverty rate in the country which may be promoting the rise of these cultural practices, after all, the leaders of tomorrow must also eat to get there.