By Reagan Malumo
A male conference organized by Nedico Namibia through its project Mapilelo in the Caprivi Region started at the Caprivi College of Education near Katima Mulilo.
The conference creates a platform to assess the factors that play a role in male involvement and soliciting opinions on future programmes, that would attract and involve men in HIV/AIDS activities.
The conference is being attended by hundreds of men from the region where like in other regions and other African cultures, wife bashing is rife.
Other attendees are a panel of health experts from several other SADC countries who are expected to deliberate on factors that would stimulate a vibrant male involvement in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Caprivi and Namibia in general.
The Rector of the Caprivi College of Education Benedict Kangumu applauded the Mapilelo project for initiating the conference and for proposing Caprivi as the host of the conference.
He said that Caprivi serves as a host to major transport corridors which makes it prone to cross-border transmission of HIV/AIDS, hence he was optimistic the conference would help curb the spread of the AIDS pandemic in the region.
Meanwhile, according to Nedico Country Director Jerry Mameja, the Mapilelo Project has achieved more in areas of community based treatment and management support promotion. However, fewer efforts have been made to ensure greater involvement of men in the fight against the pandemic.
“We have realized that we have missed the way on how we are to deal with men in our structures,” he said.
He noted that of all the people visiting the voluntary counselling and testing centres, only 40 percent of them are men. Of those involved in voluntary home-based care, only 35 percent are men.
About 40.3 percent of people in the Caprivi region are HIV positive and about 63 females were trained compared to only12 males trained in the region.
It is against this background that the conference sought to find common ground in getting men to be more involved in issues related to HIV/AIDS.
According to Mameja, it has been observed that men play a vital role in promoting equity, prevention of violence and fostering sexual and active health, but still the question is why are they still reluctant to involve themselves in issues of HIV/AIDS.
He said it is much puzzling that men hold decision-making power over sexual relationships and hence are the driving force in the spread of HIV/AIDS but while not showing seriousness in the fight against the deadly pandemic.
The conference will deliberate on important topics such as male circumcision, the findings of a dry sex study, intergenerational sex and concurrent partners.
He said there would be much discussion on other issues such as traditional beliefs in order to find out how they impact on people’s sexual behaviour and possible ways on how to change them into positive behaviour.
“If traditional beliefs are problems, can we try to change them? If male circumcision is a solution, can we adopt it? If love is the answer, can we start loving again,” emphasized Mameja.
The Project Officer for Africare-Zimbabwe shared his experience on the methods his country uses to involve men in matters related to HIV/AIDS prevention.
The Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi was also expected to address the conference. The theme for the two-day meeting was “Men Against HIV/AIDS.”