May 15, 2012
It isn't rare for politicians to put their feet in their mouths when they talk about HIV/AIDS. This past January, Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) told a radio show "homosexuality is harmful," the HIV epidemic came from a single gay airline employee having "sexual relations" with a monkey, and that heterosexual men and women really cannot contract HIV.
The most recent culprit for this type of ignorance is a Zimbabwean senator who believes that curbing HIV rates in his country isn't about better access to medication, condom use or testing, but having women shave their heads and make other efforts to appear unattractive to men.
Morgan Femai, an MDC-T senator for Chikomo said the measures were required because men were finding it difficult to resist well-dressed, attractive women.
While addressing a parliamentary HIV awareness workshop in Kadoma on Friday, he said: "What I propose is that the government should come up with a law that compels women to have their heads clean-shaven like what the Apostolic sects do," ZimEye reports.
He added: "They should also not bathe because that is what has caused all these problems."
Senator Femai also appeared to suggest female circumcision would help stop the spread of disease.
He told the workshop, which was [organized] in conjunction with the National Aids Council: "Women have got more moisture in their organs as compared to men so there is need to research on how to deal with that moisture because it is conducive for bacteria breeding. There should be a way to suck out that moisture."
Deborah Jack, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) told Huffington Post UK: "These suggestions of how to fight the spread of HIV are totally misleading and potentially really damaging."
"Damaging" is an understatement.
The same Huff Po UK article stated that another MDC-T senator, Sithembile Mlotshwa (Matobo), recently suggested men be injected with drugs that reduce their libidos.
Just another example of how real and powerful stigma is, and how people continue to moralize this epidemic and make it about suppressing sex instead of providing spaces for people to have safer sex.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.