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Public taxis are a nightmare, the screaming and rude conductors, the cursing drivers and the vulnerable passengers. Normally I don’t pay particular attention to other passengers in these dilapidated taxis, but what I witnessed today left me with more questions than answers. I tried so hard to fight back tears as I felt a pang of pain which like a hot ball ran up and down my throat. I could have said or done something but I was weakened by sadness and anger at the same time.
Next to me sat an octogenarian who judging by her stature should be at home herself, probably resting, but there she was holding her 5 year old grandchild who was battling for breath. It was not long before this ailing child started coughing. For a few minutes the old woman struggled to hold the child in her hands as he was now fidgeting before violently throwing up in the taxi.
Overwhelmed by embarrassment, the lady then took her towel and wiped the vomit then she started explaining that both the child’s parents are late and she is the only surviving relative and has to go and get Antiretroviral drugs for this child at the clinic where she was headed. I could feel the pain in her voice as if she was trying to reach out to the strangers in this taxi to understand her plight. What hurt me the most is that just as she got off the taxi, the driver and most of the men enganged in the most inhuman, chauvinistic conversation. Blaming this woman for her misery. Others even used discriminatory language to describe the child.
As I sat there saddened by the old lady who is a microcosm of what many women are going through and awed by the ignorance these men exhibited, I realised that when it comes to tackling HIV/AIDS and stigma we still have a long way to go.
Conferences , workshops seminars are held year in and year out in fancy luxurious hotels, between literate and educated people, yet the real people who need this information are out there spreading the virus let alone fuelling stigma inflicting more pain.
There is no doubt if any that women bear the brunt of social, economic, and political woes. This is no wonder women are seen struggling to make ends meet to support their families. The majority of those in the amazon long queues at the clinics for antiretroviral drugs are women. In remote areas especially, some have to travel long kilometres and sleep at the growth point centers just to make it in time.
I guess the realities of the burden of care being on a woman and the ‘feminisation’ of HIV will only be clearer to one once you have also lived and experienced the realities of it. Zimbabwean women in one way or the other, directly or indirectly are facing the brunt of this burden. I hope one day I will be able to be a part of change and experience .