By Meclina Chirwa

As Malawi commemorates World AIDS Day, relevant stakeholders have been urged to step up awareness efforts on contraceptives use among women. 

According to Salome(not real name) who is living with HIV, use of condoms is regarded as a taboo in marriage. 

“Many women do not negotiate when it comes to sex, a development which puts women at risk of being infected.” Salome said.

For 48-year-old Salome, who hails from Kasungu district, life has been a rollercoaster.

The circumstances that followed after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2005 have been nothing short of trauma and degrading. 

After being sick for quite a long period, Salome made the bold step to get tested.

Salome admitted, “The results were shocking as I never imagined I could contract HIV.” 

But Salome would go on to face untold stigma and discrimination for informing her abusive husband about her HIV status.

“My husband accused me of being a sex worker with a mission to kill him.” Said Salome.

She describes the treatment she received as being turned into “a slave in my own house” for the years that followed. 

The husband went to the extremes of throwing Salome out of their matrimonial bed and withdrew family support.       

After six months, Salome was put on ARV treatment and received counseling on maintaining a healthy diet and being stress free. 

Like a phoenix, Salome rose from the ashes and ventured into entrepreneurship to be self-reliant after successfully applying for a loan. 

She argues she contracted HIV from her husband. 

Salome noted that, “There are several women in my position who do not have a say when it comes to the contentious subject of sex.”

According to Salome, all stakeholders must strengthen awareness efforts about contraceptives especially use of condoms even in matrimony.

Scientific Director at University of North Carolina Mina Hosseinipour said to ensure a comprehensive approach to addressing HIV among women there are a number of global efforts underway in the development of new HIV prevention technologies. 

“Of particular importance, is the breakthrough in HIV prevention among women with an injection given every eight weeks proving very effective than the traditional daily anti-retroviral drugs.” said Hosseinipour.

With a prevalence rate of Eight point Eight percent, Malawi is said to be on track to achieve the United Nations 90:90:90 treatment targets which aim at ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. 

Officials say Malawi is already making progress towards 95:95:95 targets set for the year 2025, with 91 percent of people knowing their HIV status, 87 percent put on treatment and 94 percent virally suppressed. 

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