Musicians: The missing link in HIV prevention efforts

hivThe trend that has been happening in the Zimbabwe music fraternity since the advent of HIV and AIDS to date makes my heart very heavy. This is more so when there is a lack of a specific HIV prevention strategy targeting musicians. In the past the HIV pandemic has wreaked havoc in the music fraternity and a number of icons and upcoming artistes alike have died as a result.

While in the past I have noted with utter shock as many musicians succumbed to the virus and finally die of AIDS related ailments the recent developments in 2010 have inspired me to pen this article and break my silence of a very long time. As a development practitioner with specific interest in HIV prevention I got highly disturbed with the issues surrounding Josphat Somanjes infidelity and Tongai Moyos multiple concurrent sexual partnerships (MCPs) that were all over the news in recent weeks.

The first issue that caught my attention was in the H-Metro (March: 2010) which exposed Josphat Somanjes infidelity as he was caught by his wife in the act with a girlfriend popularly referred to as small house in Zimbabwe. Then, barely a week after disclosing his HIV status Tongai Moyo had a domestic dispute with his wife over his intentions of marrying a second wife and there are even some claims that the man impregnated his wifes young sister. This unfortunately claimed Barbaras life (Moyos wife) as she committed suicide using rat poison.

Missing link

It is against such an upsetting background that I have noticed a missing link in all the HIV prevention efforts that are being made by the country through concerted efforts by the government and a myriad of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and AIDS service organisations (ASOs) in Zimbabwe.

In as much as Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in Southern Africa that has managed to bring down its HIV prevalence to 13.6 per cent from about 30 per cent in the early 80s, I feel that there is still a gap in HIV prevention efforts in the music fraternity.

Its surprising to note that while Zimbabwe has joined other African countries in denouncing the practice of multiple concurrent sexual partners (MCPs), most of our musicians in Zimbabwe find it fashionable to grab as many wives as they wish. If a needs analysis was to be conducted it would indicate that while everyone is vulnerable, musicians are more vulnerable to HIV, particularly given the prevailing scenario that has been captured above. There is therefore a strong need for HIV prevention programmes.

Ideally, musicians are supposed to be role models and walk the talk. We are supposed to learn from them not only through their music alone but also through their deeds. Imagine what comes into ones mind now when they either hear Tongai Moyo or Josphat Somanjes songs. Obviously the mere mention of this duo or their songs will remind you of their infidelity which largely contradicts what they portray in their songs. Just recently I heard one person converting Tongais lyrics from Nemumvura mese Naye to Nemuguva mese Naye literally meaning that the musician must follow his wife to the grave since through his song he portrayed her wife and himself as inseparable.

Public disclosure

When I read in the Sunday Mail of 9 May 2010 that Tongai Moyo had publicly disclosed his HIV status, I could not help but admire the man. This was a courageous stunt especially from a musician of his calibre.

The Zimbabwe National Behavioural Change Strategy for prevention of sexual transmission of HIV (2006-2010) clearly identifies leaders as key figures in spearheading behaviour change and as such these leaders are supposed to be role models. In Zimbabwe most of the musicians are leaders in their own respect. Take for instance Oliver Mutukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo, Leornad Zhakata, Alick Macheso and even Tongai himself, they are all leaders. They are supposed to assist us in the NGO world to transform the lives of many through their music, but most importantly also through their behaviours.

I am sure that after chronicling what is happening in the music sector most people will agree with me that there is a serious information gap pertaining to HIV and AIDS. The million dollar question is should we watch while these great sons and daughters perish or should we join hands to educate them? I know of a number of organisations implementing HIV programmes in all the major towns and even smaller towns and growth points where most of these musicians are residents, please lets join hands and save our colleagues. – Kubatana

Post published in: Opinions

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