VISITING UNAids executive director Michel Sidibe has accused society of failing to protect and shield young girls from sexual violence, a situation which might reverse gains made in the fight against HIV and Aids.
By Phyllis Mbanje
Sidibe said this at a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s Mbare Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGDV) clinic during a handover of $100 000 to Musasa Project, Her Zimbabwe and Women and Law in Southern Africa to work with health institutions and survivors of rape and violence.
He said the interventions would focus on HIV prevention and ensuring the rights of women and girls through building the capacity of community.
During a brief tour of the clinic, Sidibe had closed-door one-on-one discussions with some of the victims of rape and said he had been touched by their stories.
“Their stories were beyond what we could just accept. No human being can imagine what it feels like to have one’s daughter raped and going through unnecessary violence,” Sidibe said.
He also said people should look beyond HIV and see to it that humanity carried them forward and helped them in respecting the dignity of women.
“We have collectively failed to make our role better and put our girls at the centre of what we are doing. If we don’t do that, I don’t think we will be able to end HIV and Aids and make our society better,” Sidibe said.
One of the victims, a 19-year-old girl, was raped five times by different men. When she was first raped, she was only six years old. She was also infected with HIV.
“I will not stop talking about it until justice has been served,” the girl said.
Her emotional narration brought tears to the delegates. Chief Chiveso, who was also present, admitted that indeed society had failed.
“We do not condone violence. Women should be respected and treated equally,” the chief said.
The Mbare clinic has an integrated HIV and rape programme. MSF started a separate SGBV project in 2011 in collaboration with the City of Harare.
“The clinic offers comprehensive care in the form of medical and psychological follow-up for survivors of rape,” MSF health promotion officer Brian Hove said. “We also offer free services like post exposure prophylaxis which if given within 72 hours of rape to prevent HIV infection.”
Meanwhile, the UNAids director is expected to hold high-level meetings with senior government officials, community and business leaders, civil society and other development partners.