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By Sharon Gordon
I don't like this time of year. We're all tired and hoping to go on vacation but still have something to do. We have just celebrated International AIDS Day and are in the middle of 16 days of activism, both clear reminders of gender-based violence in the worst case.
At the center of all of this is sex. Yes sex!
Women are being raped, assaulted and infected with HIV at an alarming rate. We just don't seem to have an answer that works. We have programs, marches and politicians saying the right things, but when it comes down to it, the reality is – nothing happens.
What's the point of talking to women about not being beaten up when they think they have no alternatives? Why don't we prefer to speak directly to men? Why aren't we giving examples of those who make their way into the courts, and why aren't they listed on the front page of every newspaper.
We are all complicit in maintaining the status quo. Think about the language we use. A woman becomes pregnant, she was raped, she was attacked! We don't turn it around by saying a man raped her, a man attacked her. We make them the focus instead of finding the perpetrator and shaming him.
Have you ever met a man and someone said – he is beating his wife? , we say this is his wife and she is being abused. See the difference
What if you know a man is abusing his partner? Do you invite him to the braai anyway and treat him as one of the boys? Why don't you shame him Is it because you secretly consent to his violence against women? It will take men to stand up and be counted if we want to change anything!
For now, let's just talk about our HIV statistics. The infected population group are women and girls between the ages of 15 and 20. (Remember, we're not reporting on younger ones as our rape statistics will go over the top!) These infections make up 25% of infections, despite the population being 10% of the population.
Please don't think that you are immune. The worst mistake you will make is to think – not my daughter.
She gets infected by a little punk who doesn't wear a condom! She probably doesn't have the confidence to insist because let's face it, not even married women have that confidence. If you ask your husband to wear a condom it means that he is being accused of having an affair and I promise you that he will refuse until you contract the diseases he brings home.
HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be. Our ARV program is working well and we have become complacent, but the disease didn't. Education about sex in schools is still taboo, even though we know they are having sex. We know they are infected by men. We know no condom is used. I am constantly amazed at the school attitudes that you, the stupid parents, share.
Many parents reject sex education in school as it is their prerogative to speak to their children and I agree, but they do NOT speak to their children. They're either embarrassed or waiting until it's too late and let's face it, they're qualified to talk about sex. Most children would rather put pins in their eyes than have to talk to a parent about sex.
Women are also not immune to infection. Most infections occur in heterosexual relationships, where the woman is largely dependent on her husband for financial support. She will find it extremely difficult to insist on condom use or even an HIV test.
There is hope. It's called PreP. It is a drug that contains two ARVs and has had great success in preventing infections. It prevents the HIV virus from replicating in the T cells. It is taken as a precaution. When you are in danger this is your solution. If you are sexually active (or your daughter is), you should consider PreP.
It must be taken 28 days before it takes effect and 3 weeks after exposure. It is necessary to prescribe, which in itself is an obstacle to its use, and then the cost is significant. The generic costs around R200 for a monthly course and the other is R700. I think it's worth stopping me from getting infected forever.
Unfortunately, PreP was originally targeted at the most vulnerable communities, sex workers, and men who have sex with men, which has stigmatized its use. It is a solution to a growing problem and we have to find a way to destigmatize it.
If you are a woman who thinks your partner is non-monogamous, this is your protection. You can take it without having to blame yourself.
In these dangerous times, this is one thing women can do to protect their sexual health.
I know facts are difficult to face, but if I had a daughter she would be with PreP because I would do anything to keep my children safe.
For those of you who believe protecting a child equals being allowed to be promiscuous – shame on you. It is precisely this attitude that brought us here. Your rejection doesn't work. Isn't it time for a change?
Please listen to a podcast on the subject here.
I would like to hear from you on this subject – (Email protected)
The Saturday star