By Wezi Tjaronda
A medical survey on menopause and its symptoms is underway in six regions of the country. Some women have committed suicide because they confused menopause with HIV/Aids symptoms.
Menopause is the time in a women’s life when menstrual periods stop. This occurs when the ovaries naturally begin decreasing the production of sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.
On average, women reach menopause at the age of 51 years although it can occur earlier between 30 and 40 years and much later at 60 years in some women. Most women, however, experience menopause between 45 and 55 years.
The survey, which started yesterday, will investigate and assess the knowledge of menopause and menopausal symptoms, whose information is not as widespread as that of HIV/Aids.
Some symptoms of menopause are similar to those of HIV/Aids, which according to unconfirmed reports have not only led to some women committing suicide but are also responsible for broken relationships.
Eunice Iipinge, the head of the gender research and training division at the Multi-Disciplinary Research and Consultancy Centre (MRCC) at the University of Namibia said, when she announced the survey yesterday, it is believed that some women in the Omusati and Caprivi regions committed suicide because they feared they had HIV/Aids.
However, hormonal dysfunction that disrupts ovulation can also lead to abnormal bleeding, which may be more common in HIV-positive women, although studies are inconclusive, other reports say.
Symptoms of menopause include irregular periods, hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal symptoms such as dryness and itching, urinary symptoms, fatigue, memory and sleeping problems.
Iipinge said if there was widespread information about HIV/Aids and related symptoms and little knowledge about menopause and related symptoms, women could likely confuse and take negative actions in response to menopausal symptoms especially in rural areas where health facilities are limited.
A national gender study in 2000, which looked at health services in Namibia found that the least limited services at health facilities were those dealing with menopause.
She said the study would include men because of misunderstandings of menopausal symptoms that may lead to confusion and potential erroneous conclusions.
A pilot phase of the study in the Khomas Region found that only one out of four men knew about menopause, said Iipinge.
The study will assess the knowledge and understanding of women and men about menopause and its symptoms, determine the availability of information regarding menopause and where it can be found, ascertain traditional ways of passing on information from one generation to the other and examine coping strategies of women going through menopause.
The study will also determine participants’ knowledge of HIV/Aids and related symptoms for them to differentiate menopause and HIV/Aids and identify health facilities that are available to assist women with menopausal issues.
Twenty-six field researchers in Khomas, Oshana and Omusati, Omaheke and Hardap, Erongo and Kunene, Kavango and Caprivi, will conduct the study.
Some of the regions were grouped together considering their traditional ways of dealing with issues.
The MRCC and the Namibia National Women’s Organisation is behind the study in consultation with the United Nations Population Fund.