Monday, May 17, 2021

Poverty is making our youth vulnerable; may be it’s time we considered social benefits

Unemployment, poverty and economic hardships are making our young people vulnerable.

Last week BONELA (Botswana Network on Law and AIDS) said it is becoming common for partners to hide or deliberately not disclose to their spouses their positive HIV status leading to them passing the virus to the other. We are somewhat surprised that BONELA seems to treat this as a new discovery.

For as far as we can recall, this is as old as HIV/AIDS itself.

The reason why it was always important for people to test together was so that no information could be kept away from the other party.

What is however new, if at all is a revelation that HIV positive people are going out of their way to deliberately infect those that are negative.

If that is true then it really is very unfortunate.

It underscores the fact that there are still people who are having sex without a condom with people whose status they are not aware of. This kinds of takes us back twenty years in our fight against HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS, like poverty has closely related to it, the power dynamics that have always made it immensely difficult to fight and conquer the disease.

At play here are the gender dynamics.

As in many other ways, when it comes to sex, the woman finds herself often sitting from a weaker position, thus rendering her expressly much more vulnerable to HIV than her male counterpart.

In sex, as in many other things, poverty often makes a woman and indeed a girl child less assertive and incapable of resisting things that they could easily resist if they were not poor.

This is part of sociology lessons taught at undergraduate levels.

Those who would have read the theories of how HIV often spreads and why it  has over the years affected more women than men would also know that it was exactly on account of such power dynamics that are especially more pronounced, entrenched and prevalent in African societies  than elsewhere that women fall among the vulnerable groups.

We are especially worried that over the recent years the economy has not done well. This has led to poverty levels increasing.

A weaker economy means that fewer and fewer jobs have been created.

And with that the competition for what little jobs the market can create has intensified.
Such a competition means that more and more of the weaker members of our society would fall by the way side.

And it is accepted that those are mainly the women and the girl child.
And that is not all.

At a social level, we have also witnessed the weakening of the fabric that has in past held us together.

The family, especially the extended family has come under enormous pressure in the recent past.
And the weaknesses of the social fabric, especially as manifested by the collapse of the extended family, on account of death caused by HIV and Aids mean that the social support that we used to cushion the weaker and more vulnerable is no more.

It is not a coincidence that the biggest victims of such social shifts happen to be women.
May be it’s high time we considered social benefits for those who are looking for work but simply cannot get such employment because it does not exist.

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