Factors that influence Women's capacity to protect themselves from contracting HIV infection in a Zambian community : a case study of Nkonkola area in Mazabuka District
Moonga, Justina Muchaka
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This study examined factors that lead to high incidence of HIV/AIDS infection among women in order to establish determinants that influence women' s protection from contracting HIV/AIDS infection. The exercise was done by investigating the subjects' level of awareness of the existence and seriousness of HIV/AIDS; the subjects' knowledge of how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and how it can be prevented; and the subjects' views on the use of condoms as a preventive measure against the spread of HIV/AIDS in their community. Data were collected both quantitatively and qualitatively by administering a standardized pre-tested questionnaire to each of the 88 subjects. In addition, focus group discussions were held with men and women outside the study sample. Specific methods of data collection consisted of a cross sectional survey of 88 women in Nkonkola, Mazabuka district. Of the 88 women in the study sample, 38 were members of an NGO called Women for Change (WFC) who were selected by systematic random selection, while 50 were non members of WFC. The members of WFC were included in the study to establish the impact of women's economic empowerment on their capacity to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS infection. The findings show that the subjects have a very high level of knowledge of the existence of HIV/AIDS since n=88 and 98.9 percent both WFC and non WFC members have heard of HIV/AIDS. It did not matter as whether they belong to WFC or not , the Knowledge was the same. Tests of statistical significance on Knowledge on HIV made of transmission between WFC and non WFC members confirm that no association exists between Knowing the existence of HIV/AIDS and belonging to WFC. A total of 88 women were interviewed , 38 belong to WFC and 50 are not members of WFC , Knowledge on mosquito bite as a mode of HIV transmission gave P=.4824 for WFC and P = 1.00 for non WFC members, multiple partners as mode of HIV transmission gave P=1.00 for WFC and P=1.00 for non WFC members . Despite this high level of Knowledge existence of HIV/AIDS, most of the participants in the study were not doing anything to protect themselves from contracting HIV infection . 22.7 percent of the subjects Know at least three persons who have HIV/AIDS while 54.5 Knew at least three persons who had died of HIV/AIDS. The main sources of information on HIV/AIDS included relatives and friends (36%) , doctors /nurses (17 percent ) , and the rest heard from other sources.Very few respondents thought they were personally at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS infection. There is unfortunately a very low level of condom acceptability in the study community.As much as people Know that couples can prevent HIV infection by using condoms , WFC ( P = .0025 ) , and non WFC (p= 1.00) , they do not actually use them , on responding to a question of ever using condoms , WFC (P = .5177) and non WFC (P=1.00 ) They also do not insist to their partners to use condoms WFC ( P=.1599 ) and non WFC (P= 1.000). Opinion on couples using condoms was tested using chi-square test. A statistically significant result was observed on WFC members (P = .0025) as opposed to non WFC members(P=1.00). Although there is no statistical significance on talking about sex for both WFC (P=1.00) and non WFC (P=1.00) , the results suggest that AIDS prevention and control campaigns have not taken into account the cultural, social and economic constraints on women's ability to protect themselves from contracting HIV/AIDS infection. This may be because Zambian cultural practices are still biased towards men who are the major decision makers and prime advocates of dry sex and ritual cleansing. This implies that HIV/AIDS prevention programmes must be set within a broader context of women' s status and rights. The interventions must include efforts to raise self confidence and improve communication skills. The interventions should also address body awareness, partner communication and provide opportunities for group support and networking to help women begin the process of adopting risk reduction behaviours. To be effective, the programmes should give more direct attention to the issues of gender and power that provide the social context of sexual decision making.
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