A recent interaction with a family in the Ovatue community revealed they have limited knowledge on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Speaking to New Era, Uatiminua Tjambiru, an elderly woman who was making traditional beads out of wire at Okandundu koVatue (Mountain of Ovatue) in Opuwo, however acknowledged the disease is prevalent in the community.
“We don’t really know where it comes from. There are some of our people who go to hospital to have their blood tested and when they find out that they are infected they want to commit suicide,” says the elderly woman.
She does not know how old she is and only says, “I don’t know how old I am. I get my monthly pension so I am really old.”
Her son Kaujaheua (Tjambiru) remarked, “We heard that ehinga (HIV/AIDS) comes from snakes. We also heard that it originated from that side of Angola.”
They said condoms are often distributed in the community.
“But we don’t really use condoms because there is a difference when we are using a condom and when we are not. We also don’t use condoms because we want to make children. Most of our women get the disease from men who come and look for work in Opuwo,” added Kaujaheua.
The elderly woman added there are people among the Ovatue who are on medication for HIV.
“We see people taking tablets and wanting to kill themselves,” said the elderly woman to the laughter of other family members.
Contacted for comment on the level of awareness on HIV/AIDS amongst minority groups such as the Ovatue and Ovahimba in Opuwo, the executive director of the Hizetjitwa Indigenous People’s Organisation (HIPO), Tjikunda Kulunga, in a recent interview with New Era said he could not rule out the possibility that there are some people who still have limited knowledge on the disease and its impact.
Kulunga explained there was a need to spend time with the Ovatue and OvaHimba people to really assess their knowledge of the disease because sometimes when elders speak and they plead ignorance about a subject the rest of the family is likely to follow the same thinking – even if they know the truth.
Kulunga said there are special HIV/AIDS awareness programmes tailored for such groups.