Zimbabwe Activist Sees HIV Infection Surge Following Political Violence

A Zimbabwean child rights activist told delegates to the the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico City on Thursday that rape as a form of political violence seems likely to boost the rate of HIV infection among women and girls in the Southern African country.

Girl Child Network Director Betty Makoni charged during a session organized by AIDS-Free World of Canada that many women and girls were subjected to rape and torture by militia members allegedly under the control of the ruling ZANU-PF party during a wave of political violence that followed March elections and was mainly directed at the opposition. AIDS Free World said it is now documenting such crimes and is naming alleged rapists with the intention of bringing them to justice. Makoni said it will not be difficult to name names, because most of the perpetrators are individuals known to residents of the localities, often remote rural areas, where the alleged sexually based attacks took place.

Makoni said most of the cases were reported to the police, but that government doctors were reluctant to document the crimes, or administer HIV prophylactic treatments.

Makoni told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that her main concern at present is to help rape victims heal physically, but added that given the high HIV prevalence rate in the country, many victims could find their plight even more dire. VOA

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