Efforts to Fight HIV/AIDS in Swaziland Undermined by King Mswati's Polygamy, Critics Say
August 20, 2004
Swaziland's King Mswati's efforts to provide care for AIDS orphans, obtain HIV/AIDS treatment funding and promote safe sex in the country -- which has the world's highest HIV prevalence -- are being "undermined by his multiple sexual partners," according to many critics, London's Guardian reports (Carroll, Guardian, 8/19). An estimated 38.6% of adults in the country are HIV-positive, according to the country's latest national survey. The epidemic has been fueled by polygamy, women's lack of autonomy, poverty and migrant workers who visit commercial sex workers (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/26). Experts say that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the king's "biggest challenge," according to the Guardian. Ncamsile Tfwala, a project manager with World Vision, blamed the country's epidemic on a patriarchal, polygamous society in which women cannot negotiate safe sex. "Everybody knows about condoms, but people are still careless," she said, adding, "We are really struggling with behavior change." According to the Guardian, "the crisis has precipitated an unprecedented personal challenge to the king," as two of Mswati's 11 wives have "severed ties, apparently because of his polygamous ways." Jan Sithole, head of the Swaziland's trade union federation, said, "For a role model, it is not about what they say but what they do." Mario Masuku, head of the People's United Democratic Movement, a political party that has been banned in the country, said that the tradition of polygamy is "no excuse," adding that Mswati's "tendency to accumulate young girls is his own decision" (Guardian, 8/19).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.