LIKOMA ( Patrick Botha, Mana) – Local Government Ward Councillor for Likoma, Samuel Talumbe Chithila has made direct attack on practices that promote the transmission of HIV among the island population and call for behaviour change.
Chithila took a swipe at tendencies by married couples who abandon their matrimonial homes to seek sexual pleasures elsewhere under the guise of either doing business or simply fishing errands.
Chithila could not hide his displeasure with what he called dangerous practices during HIV and AIDS activities held at Likoma Community Ground.
“Our women even married ones, board ships with less than a 50 kilogramme bag of bonya (usipa) to sell in Nkhata Bay under the pretext of doing business. But what happens there is at times very shocking. We hear of married women trading their bodies under the same guise. These women come back to the unsuspecting husband,” said a concerned Chithila.
“And even here on the island we hear stories of our women and young girls selling themselves to business people from mainland who come here to buy bonya. Are we sure they are protected? Yes we are faced with poverty and our woman need economic empowerment but is this right way to go about it?”
He then turned to condemn men, especially the fishing community on their sexual life wantonness especially during peak months.
“Our young men and even older men from the fishing community once you make a big catch, you abandon your families and stay with commercial sex workers in these rest houses. My fellow islanders how can we fight this scourge when we are losing productive members of our community like that? I urge you, let’s join hands together and fight HIV,” said an obviously concerned Chithila.
Echoing Chithila’s observation was Group village headman Nkhwemba who said: “There’s nothing new about HIV/AIDS. We hear these messages everyday on the radio. What we lack is serious action to prevent and fight it,” he said.
The HIV and AIDS awareness activity which was part of World Aids Day commemoration was held in the afternoon in order to accommodate fishing communities who are mostly busy in the morning at the beaches and also to avoid inconveniencing classes for school going youths.
District Aids Coordinator for Likoma, Geoffrey Mwase, bemoaned the delayed funding saying it had affected planning for the event.
“As you might all be aware, this function is held on 1 December world over. And districts have to hold their commemoration at least a few weeks after the national commemoration or a month within that period. But this year funding from NAC was delayed so much so that we had to hold the function today which is almost five months after the national event,” he bemoaned
“But considering the importance of the function, we still had to go ahead with it.”
The function that was spiced up with drama, testimonies from people living with HIV, malipenga, and chioda dances started with solidarity a kilometre walk from Jalo market to the community hall ground. There was also voluntary HIV testing and counselling on the day.
Likoma being an island marred with a regular migration of people to and fro the island for business, tourism and other activities is feared to be a hot spot for HIV. Border activities with neighbouring Mozambique and Tanzania also increase the risk.