Zimbabwe: A New HIV/AIDS Syllabus for World AIDS Day

Chief Chiveso is the traditional chief of Shamva/Bindura-Mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe

EGPAF Zimbabwe

Chief Chiveso is the traditional chief of Shamva/Bindura-Mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe, and a strong advocate for male partner participation in maternal, newborn, and child health services. In honor of World AIDS Day, Chief Chiveso gave the following speech at Bandimba Clinic, Mount Darwin District, Zimbabwe.

“Cultural and traditional practices can and should adapt to the change in times! In the same way that in education the syllabus is changed from time to time to accommodate new knowledge and new trends, so too should culture and traditional practices when it comes to issues like HIV/AIDS. We must change our ways or else we perish.

“As a traditional chief, I want to continue to rule [laughter] so there must be subjects to rule …! So, it is up to me to help my people in the right way so that they continue to have children who live and are there tomorrow and in future generations. Children are our future. They are our future leaders, doctors, and teachers. We simply cannot allow a child to risk being born HIV-positive because the mother fears being bewitched if she goes to the clinic early to tell them that she is pregnant—or because a father does not want to go and get an HIV test with his wife. No, No, No!

“The syllabus has changed; men should go the clinic with their partners and should be involved in programs such as PMTCT [prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV].

“That’s why I am excited to work with EGPAF [the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation]. It is up to us leaders to empower our people to embrace such programs that give us hope of a generation free of HIV. We must do all we can to dispel a lot of the myths and misconceptions that are there about our culture that are known to hinder women to access such lifesaving services. Many of these are simply not factual.

“For example, it is neither [a] cultural nor [a] traditional belief of ours that we should not support our partners during pregnancy [and] delivery and throughout the time the baby is breastfeeding. I used to carry my wife’s bag myself and take her to the clinic. I did not go in, fine… but I waited outside until she was finished and would walk back home with her. That was over 65 years ago! And if it were today, of course I would proudly go inside the clinic with her and get an HIV test together.

“The syllabus has changed [laughter].

“So where did this come from that so few of our men don’t want to be with their wives during this important time? It’s not our culture; it’s not our tradition. So as the custodians of our culture and tradition, we must defend its virtues, but ensure we are embracing knowledge and advancements that give us a hope for tomorrow—children [are] our tomorrow.

“My relationship with EGPAF is mutually beneficial! I support EGPAF in awareness campaigns on TV and radio, [and at] community advocacy meetings with leaders and community members. And EGPAF supports me with technical understanding as well as [by providing information, education, and communication] materials that I use to give education wherever I get the opportunity to address people—and as a chief, these are many.

“Together, we will get the results we want—a generation free of HIV. Information, education, and … communication are important in this effort, and I am going to continue supporting and leading health issues in my village so that families can live better.

According to a report issued by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health, the country continues to grapple with low male partner participation in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services. In 2012 only 14 percent of male partners were tested for HIV and received results in antenatal clinics.

You can learn more about EGPAF’s work in Zimbabwe by visiting the Zimbabwe Country page.