Tourist hot spots and MCPs to blame

aids_ribbonHARARE Multiple Concurrent Partnerships (MCPs) and tourist hot spots have been recognised as two major contributing factors in the rise of HIV infections.

Joshua Chigodora, from SAFAIDS, said that love circles created an environment where the virus could spread virulently.

“MCPs have come as a result of economic constraints in the country and the most affected include female university students who indulge in sexual relationships with married men old enough to be their fathers. At the same time they date their boyfriends which results in all the partners involved being vulnerable to HIV. It is difficult to tell who is HIV positive in the love circle,” he said.

Chigodora said University students were involved in inter-generational relationships for different reasons, including poverty, peer pressure and status upgrading.

“Peer pressure has ruined our children in these colleges. They are misled by friends who are also involved in these MCPs and end up being the victims after having sexual relations with an infected person unknowingly,” said Rita Sibindi, of the Matabeleland AIDS Council.

Female students admitted to becoming increasingly involved in MCPs for survival.

“We come from different homes where we have different backgrounds. Coming from a poor background I end up getting involved to get money for self-sustenance as my parents are unable to meet all my needs,” said one university student.

Meanwhile the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality, Dr Sylvester Maunganidze, attributed the prevalence of HIV infection to experimental tourists.

“Research has shown that the movement of people from one place to another can be a catalyst in the spread of the deadly scourge. Tourists tend to have the propensity to explore in the field of sex and they usually engage in casual sex that fuels HIV and AIDS. For example Victoria Falls is a place that gets more visitors and that puts it as one of the high risk areas in the country and the region at large,” he said.

Dr Maunganidze was quick to note that by introducing the AIDS levy a decade ago, the government had put in place mitigating measures against the spread of HIV.

“We are, however, more concerned at a regional level because we need measures that cut across borders- sharing expertise, popularising anti-Aids campaigns by spreading the message throughout the region,” said Dr Maunganidze.

The SADC technical advisor (capacity building and mainstreaming cross-cutting issues), Dr Vitalis Chipfakacha, said the tourism sector should also play a part in the fight of the disease though provision of attractive remuneration.

“Working conditions have an impact on HIV and AIDS. If a worker is lowly paid he or she can be enticed to engage in sex by a tourist. Here we are talking of prostitution in both males and female employees. A worker can be offered US$40 and accept to have sex because of low salaries,” he said.

Post published in: Analysis

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