In our last entry we gave you a brief look into the history of Namibia and the racial tensions remaining today. Well, the biggest problem regardless of race is HIV infection.
Yesterday we had a woman come and share with us the latest statistics for Namibia in regards to this devastating disease. Namibia still remains the 2nd highest infection rate in the world although they have seen a slowing down of infection as the government is providing opportunities for people to receive free testing, treatment and counselling. The struggle is getting people to take the test, and then getting them to take the meds. There are so many social issures at hand.
First, men still carry so much power and for the most part it is acceptable for men to have many partners and or more than one wife. Women don't have enough power to demand that their partner use a condom. The areas in Namibia that have the highest percentage of HIV are those where there are army stations, truck stops and those with high volume traffic with huge amounts of prostitution.
The second major issue is the fatalistic attitude that prevails in Namibia. A lot of people believe that whether they get sick or not has nothing to do with their actions, but rather that their ancestors or someone else has willed it on them. Because people don't show any symptoms until many years later, people deny that actions from years earlier would affect them.
HIV still carries significant stigma so people just don't want to know out of fear. People are still ostracized from their friends and families. We had a woman who is HIV positive come and share her sad story with us as she struggles to mother her HIV positive son and foster child...yikes, our sense of 'trials and tribulations' is so different.
So we went to get HIV testing this morning. Mick wanted us to experience what it would be like so we could encourage others to go. It was amazing how nervous we all were about getting our results! For people that have virtually no chance of having it, it was a relief to hear we were negative. I can't even imagine how it would feel if you thought you may have been exposed.
The learning continues.