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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Confronting child/adolescent abuse, tradition and HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Irene Singogo, MEd PHC, Plan Zambia, Postal Bag 518X RW, Plot 121 Kudu Road Kabulonga, Lusaka, Zambia, 260-1260074, luis.tam@planusa.org and Luis Tam, MD DrPH, Plan USA, 1730 N Lynn St Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22209.

BACKGROUND: Zambia has one of the highest HIV burdens worldwide with an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 16 per cent. Among its rural ethnic groups, one of the contributory factors is the existence of traditions and rituals which favor HIV transmission. METHODS: Plan Zambia, an international, child-centered NGO did a comprehensive, ethnographic study on these traditions and rituals among the Chewa rural ethnic groups in Eastern Zambia. The results of the ethnographic study were used in the design of an HIV prevention program. RESULTS: Prevention measures for HIV/AIDS & STD were only known by 11% of male respondents and 14% of female participants. Traditional initiation ceremonies at the attainment of puberty facilitate HIV infection. Girls aged 11 to 16 years and boys aged 8-10 years upwards participate in these ceremonies. Boys feel obliged to prove their ‘manhood' after initiation by having sex with many girls. They force girls to have sex as an indication of power and control. Girls on the other hand are taught to be submissive and never to report the actions by boys because it is an accepted practice. Participating boys have inadequate knowledge about their rights and those of the girls. The ceremony has clear linkages to Gender Based Violence, forced and early marriage, high maternal and neonatal deaths, sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS. CONSEQUENCES: Plan Zambia is focusing Adolescent Reproductive Health within the indigenous traditional structures and ceremonies but in partnership with local governments, community organizations and local NGOs. Activities being conducted include promotion of children's rights, prevention of HIV infection within children groups, advocacy with trained child rights campaigners/counsellors, strengthening the local Police Victim Support Unit, traditional leaders and initiators training. Plan Zambia is also facilitating the development of a cadre of community-based legal aides to support victims of these traditional puberty initiation practices. The author will present the results of this initiative during her presentation.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: HIV Risk Behavior, International Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Topics in HIV/AIDS I

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA