International Community Must Help Women Fight HIV/AIDS In Swaziland

Women living with HIV in Swaziland “fight a tireless tripartite battle against HIV, the stigma it places on them, and their inferior status in Africa’s last absolute monarchy,” freelance journalist Gary Nunn writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” Nunn recounts the story of Siphiwe Hlophe, who founded Swaziland for Positive Living (Swapol) in 2001, and writes, “Women operate at grassroots level in tackling HIV because they’re rarely trusted with real responsibility. But they are increasingly making their voices heard.”

However, “the crisis is too far-reaching for women to tackle alone, and men are now being actively encouraged to take responsibility” by undergoing voluntary medical circumcision to help reduce the risk of contracting or spreading HIV, Nunn notes. “But in Swaziland, where polygamy is commonplace, men often demand sexual favors from women in return for employing them, and less than 20 percent of people know their HIV status, these targets feel overambitious without a wider push for social change,” he writes, concluding, “It is down to the international community to sharpen its focus on Swaziland, lest women like Hlophe run out of steam — and HIV infections spiral upwards” (10/26).