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AIDS and Fertility

AIDS and the Effect it has on Fertility: Population Will Continue to Rise. (1989, May 17). Daily Nation (Kenya).

OVERVIEW

(Download AIDS & Fertility overview as a PDF)

In a study of Leontodi, Uganda, 80% of bar-girls who sleep with truck drivers, traders and travelers are HIV-positive. Drivers travelling from Mombasa, Kenya to Kisangani, Zaire often sleep with many women along the route. (High rates of AIDS are found to follow Central and East African highways.) Most of these men also refuse to wear condoms to protect their wives. As a result, one of the predominant ways AIDS is spreading is from mother to child.

Pre-natal clinics in Kampala are finding HIV-positive rates among pregnant women as high as 10%. (New York City clinics report a rate of 1.4% which is considered high.) Research indicates that half the babies born to HIV-positive mothers will, too, be HIV-positive. Half of these will become HIV-negative within 15 months; the rest develop AIDS.

AIDS generally spreads more quickly in Africa than in Europe or North America. This is due to the weakened immune system of people in poor countries already plagued by undernourishment, frequent infection, and tuberculosis.

In Uganda, needles and syringes are expensive, so they are reused. But where wood or paraffin fuel is too expensive or unobtainable, needles are not properly boiled and sterilized before reuse.

Such problems must always be seen in its human and individual terms:

I was so happy when my third child was born (says Mary, while preparing the family supper of MATOKE). We called him Rejoice. He grew well, ate well, but when he was a few months old he stopped growing. He got thin. He drank lots of milk but always had diarrhea. Then he got a rash and a few weeks later he died. My neighbor said he died of Slim (the people’s name for AIDS).

The nurse at the clinic said he might have died of Slim...If it was, then he got it from me, before he was born. She said I could have a blood test to find out if I have Slim. But how would that help? I would still die...My husband would throw me out of the house. Then who would look after the children? My husband does not know how to look after them. If I die, he will move to another village, far away, where no one knows him. He will take another wife there. He will not tell this new wife about me, or the baby, or his children.

My husband is a long-distance truck driver. Sometimes he goes all the way from Mombasa in Kenya to Misangani in Zaire. He probably has girlfriends along the route. I don’t know who he sleeps with. It’s not something you ask your husband, is it? It’s not my business.

Only once I asked my husband to wear one (a condom). He got very angry. He said if I talked about such things then I must be a prostitute. Men don’t like to wear condoms, especially with their wives.

If I already have Slim then it won’t make any difference if he wears a condom or not, will it? I shall die anyway. But I worry that if I haven’t got Slim then I might still get it from my husband. How can I make him wear a condom?

Mary and her husband have two children and they would like to have more, even though she may have AIDS. This family situation has several implications:

  • Children are more desired where there is insecurity about health, subsistence, and old age.
  • Even if Mary’s husband would wear a condom, they are, in fact, not easy to obtain—they’re not carried in local stores, and it is a long walk to the hospital.
  • Though infant mortality rates are falling, more children will be dying of AIDS. The greater the likelihood of children dying, the more children parents need to have. So, experts predict a continued rise in population.

IMPLICATIONS

  1. This article seems to blame the promiscuity of male heterosexuals for the spread of AIDS in Central and East Africa.
  2. The most innocent sufferers from AIDS are infants and young children. Those upon whom the greatest suffering and stress is placed are the mothers of these children who are both dying from AIDS and watching their children die. These women are not suffering ignorantly. Most understand exactly what is happening and find themselves powerless to protect themselves or their babies.
  3. Most of the tests for HIV-positive have been performed on women—prostitutes and pregnant women in ante-natal clinics. This article encourages one to consider also testing and counseling truck drivers, traders, and travelers.
  4. The reluctance of governments and the church to directly confront this problem is understandable. Issues of human rights and limited resources hinder AIDS from becoming a paramount issue.
  5. Meanwhile, women and children suffer and die from a preventable disaster.
  6. AIDS information and testing programs must be supported. Attention, education, and warnings must move from women to men. The fine educational programs (especially for youth) developed by UNICEF, WHO, governmental organizations, and some churches must be continued. Religious organizations should put renewed emphasis on moral fidelity and human responsibility.
Dean Borgman cCYS