Women Living in Rural Areas of Zimbabwe Have Limited Access to Antiretrovirals, Groups Say
HIV-positive women living in rural areas of Zimbabwe are experiencing increasingly limited access to antiretroviral drugs, some nongovernmental organizations said recently, IRIN News reports. According to the groups, women in rural areas also tend to be more marginalized than women in urban locations. Research conducted by the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre Network found that although most women in the country who need antiretroviral access live in rural areas, three-quarters of women taking the drugs are from urban areas. In addition, the research found that women in rural areas often rely on herbal remedies, according to IRIN News. "Rural women who need" antiretrovirals "find themselves in a quandary because levels of income for a rural household tend to be low," Tariro Kutadza, coordinator for the Zimbabwe AIDS Network in the Mashonaland West province, said. The financial costs associated with antiretrovirals go beyond the price of the drugs, Kutadza said, adding that the high cost of transportation to health centers means that many low-income women often take antiretrovirals infrequently or not at all.
Women living in rural areas who are able to access antiretrovirals sometimes have difficulty taking the drugs, according to IRIN News. "I have noticed that some men, particularly those that think that they are not infected themselves, discourage their wives from taking" antiretrovirals, Kutadza said. Betty Makoni, director of the Girl Child Network and chair of Ray of Hope, said that some women hide the drugs from their husbands. "As a result, women resort to taking" antiretrovirals "when the men are not watching, for instance, when they go to search for firewood or water, and in some cases they leave the pills in the custody of other women," Makoni said.
In addition, stigma and discrimination often prevent people from receiving an HIV test or accessing treatment, Kutadza said. Makoni added that girls particularly are vulnerable to the virus because they sometimes become sexually active at a young age and are not empowered to make decisions because of a "rigidly patriarchal" social structure. "There is much need for social structures to impart information to poor rural women and girls so that they know their rights as far as getting tested and counseled, how to get treatment and the best way to deal with husbands and partners who insist on unprotected sex," Makoni said (IRIN News, 1/15).