In Tanzania, five out of every 100 people are living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The HIV and Malaria Indicator Survey (THMIS) 2011/2012 show that, the general HIV prevalence is estimated at 5.1 per cent among adults aged 15-49 years.
Of the mentioned age majority are youth. Unprotected sex is among the major factors that instigate the spread of HIV, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and unwanted pregnancies.
Different researches on the spread of HIV show that women are at a higher risk of being infected with HIV compared to men. However, a survey by Woman shed light on what might be part of this problem; failure to make their own decisions when it comes to using protection during sex.
Juliana Isaya, 33, a primary teacher in Tabata says male domination has a lot of impact in Tanzania. As a matter of fact, this is evidenced in the early stages of a relationship where women tend to be shy to talk openly about their feelings towards a man. There’s this perception that it is the man who should profess his love, and not the woman.
She says women in many African countries play second fiddle to men when it comes to making decisions, denyingthem of their right to an opinion.
“We grew up with the embedded notion that women should always be under men. Even on matters that affect their lives directly. This has brought a very serious challenge in our society today and it makes it hard for women to open up and share their feelings,” says Juliana.
Talking about her sex life, she says it has never been easy to bring up a conversation on having protected sex. Only way she can protect herself is by making sure she gets a faithful partner who’s only committed to her.
“I know it is very risky to put your health in the hands of someone else. At the same time it is not easy bringing up conversation on using protection. There is a need for us to change our mindset,” says Juliana.
Taught right from school
Dina Robert, 37, is a sales person at a telecommunications company in the country. She says that, during her high school years back in Uganda, her teachers taught her on self respect and the value of her life.
She says that teachers went ahead and taught them more about HIV/AIDS and how to protect themselves from being infected through having unprotected sex. Since then she has always been careful and never has sex without protecting herself.
As soon as she came back to Tanzania from Uganda, her first boyfriend was surprised when he saw her carrying condoms and bringing them whenever they planned to have sex. To her, carrying protection is a normal thing and helps her take better care of her own health.
However, as days went by her boyfriend accused her of being a prostitute for carrying condoms. It (carrying condom) being a habit associated with majority of boys and men in Tanzania, carrying protection rendered her an easy victim of insults from men.
“I am not yet a mother and I am still single. I believe in having a very stable family in the future. There is no way I can risk my life by having unprotected sex as majority of men are not ready to start a family but still like to enjoy the privileges of married couples,” says Dina.
A recent research published by Mail online reads that men are more likely to have unprotected sex with women they find very attractive while ugly women have higher chances of carrying a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the eyes of men.
The research further shows protection methods get thrown out of the window when it comes to one-night stands with pretty women, experts discovered.
The study aimed to better understand the relationship between perceived attractiveness, sexual health status and intended condom use among heterosexual men.
Dr Colman Matunda is a gynaecologist at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH). He says, not being able to decide on important matters especially reproductive health is because the society has undermined the girl child.
It is important for all parents and teachers to come up as one and break the silence among girls. They have to be educated on different things and on proper ways to go about any challenge.
He says that majority of women especially in rural settings think that men are in a position of making major decisions, even those that affect them directly.
“Gone are the days when a woman was taken for granted. Living the decision of using protection entirely to men has affected the lives of so many women and in this process a number of them have ended up contracting STDs,” says Matunda.
Failure to open up
According to the physiologist, ten out of 40 patients he sees in a week are women who can’t open up and explain what disruptions persist in their lives. To take control of this submissiveness to men portrayed by women, education of self-worth and using protection during intercourse should start at an early age. “They have to be taught on the importance of taking care of their lives as well as protecting themselves from diseases,” he says.
The situation of submissiveness has crossed all boundaries and now you find that even a married woman lives it up to her husband to decide whether to use protection or not. As a result most couples find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy which often comes with a host of complications.
Aisha Ismail, 36, is a banker and a mother of three children who also never wanted to discuss about family planning issues with her husband. Her first born, Lamra is 8, second born Hussein is 6 and her third born Sharifa is 4 years old.
She says her husband doesn’t like to use condoms. They never get time to discus about reproductive health because her husband never likes using condoms.
She says she has been married for the past ten years, and during all these years she’s been using morning after pills as a way of protecting herself from unplanned pregnancies.
“I have been struggling very hard to balance my career and personal life. There is never a balance between the two. Most of the times I fail to deliver at work due to family issues that I have to handle as a mother and a wife,” says Aisha.
She says her family comes first but she wishes she could’ve managed to decide on spacing the birth of her children to give room for her career growth. She believes that being a mother of three children without a good parental planning has brought a lot of challenges in her career life. And it will take years for her to fix the career damage that has happened in all those years.
Studies show that the HIV prevalence among key and vulnerable populations is higher than that of the general population. HIV prevalence among these groups is as follows: Female Sex Workers 26%: People who inject drugs 36%.
The HIV prevalence among adolescent girls and young women aged 15 -19 is 1.1%, and those aged 20-24 is 4.4%; whereas the HIV prevalence among young boys of the same age groups is 0.6% and 2.8% respectively. This situation compelled the Government to develop a National guideline targeting HIV prevention programs for Key and Vulnerable Populations.
Urio Mbago a psychologist based at Mororogoro Regional Hospital says use of protection is not only to prevent the spread of HIV, but to also act as a family planning method for families having more than two children and are not financially stable to handle more children.
“Having a high number of children who cannot be well taken care of especially in rurall settings can result to critical poverty and being unable to meet the basic family needs.
He suggests that, people, especially married couples should get proper education on family planning as well as reproductive health in order to help them plan their families better.