A generation of AIDS virgins

young_zim_girlHARARE There are millions of people living with the AIDS virus, but with a generation of children being born with the syndrome, how do they cope? At 15 years of age, Natasha* is a virgin living with a disease that is predominantly spread through sexual intercourse. (Picture How will Zimbabwe cope with AIDS infected orphans?)

“Both my parents passed away when I was a little girl and I grew up with my grandmother. I was often sick, but my grandmother thought that it was part of growing up. Neighbours advised us to go the hospital for assistance. I was only eight when I tested positive for HIV, said Natasha.

Natasha lives in Hatcliffe with her grandmother.
“I have contemplated suicide on a number of occasions. I do not see the importance of life anymore. I always ask myself why God did this to me.” Even though AIDS is slowly losing its stigma, Natasha admitted to being victimised. “People stare at me, and you know what that does to a person, she said.

Her grandmother expressed her concern over Natashas reclusiveness.
“She does not have friends anymore. They are probably afraid that if they associate with her, they could get the disease. I try to keep her company but our ages are very different,” she said. According to Natasha’s grandmother, churches have not made life any easier.

“Some people say that a positive status is punishment by God for sins. How does that include my daughter who has never slept with a man in her life?

A local NGO said many children were born with the virus because of lack of access to health, poverty and ignorance. “Many women are unaware that they have AIDS and this inevitably puts their children at risk. Strides in the health sector have seen pregnant women being tested and those that have the illness take a pill that reduces the risk of transmitting the illness through birth.”

Lack of counselling and social ignorance have forced many girls like Natasha to die silently. These children often outlive their parents, and the responsibility of looking after the orphans falls on their grandparents or siblings.

Post published in: Analysis

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