Washington Post Profiles Impact of African "Cleansing" Rituals on HIV Spread
August 19, 2003
The Washington Post yesterday profiled the impact of an African traditional ritual known as "cleansing" -- in which designated men in villages are paid to have sex with widowed women in order to "cleanse" them of evil spirits -- on the spread of HIV in Africa. According to the Post, under the ritual, married women who are widowed or unmarried women who lose a child or parent must have sex with one of "hundreds of thousands" of paid, designated "cleansers" before they are allowed to attend funerals or become the wife of a deceased husband's brother. Although African women have never liked the practice, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has made it "more than just a painful ritual" for women, according to the Post. Areas that practice the custom have the highest rates of the disease, and the debate over the practice has become a "striking example of how HIV/AIDS is forcing Africans to question and change traditions as the disease ravages the continent," according to the Post. According to African aid workers, cleansers can still be found in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, the Congo, Angola, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Nigeria (Wax, Washington Post, 8/18).
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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.