Local African Leaders Question Widow ‘Sexual Cleansing’ Tradition in Light of AIDS Pandemic, New York Times Reports
The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa has encouraged women's advocates and local leaders to "speak out publicly against so-called sexual cleansing," in which a newly widowed woman must have sex with one of her husband's male relatives in order to "exorcise" his spirit, the New York Times reports. Some people believe the practice contributes to the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, where about 25 million people are HIV-positive and about 60% of them are women. In Zambia, where the HIV prevalence rate among adults is about 20%, President Levy Mwanawasa has said that the tradition should be "discouraged," and tribal chiefs throughout the country no longer are enforcing the practice, according to the Times. However, "change is coming slowly, village by village, hut by hut," because for many people "the fear of flouting tradition often outweighs even the fear of AIDS," the Times reports (LaFraniere, New York Times, 5/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.