“Kenyan women experience high rates of violent sexual contact, which is thought to contribute to the higher prevalence rate,” notes, Carol Mwai, a programme officer at the organisation.
Recent studies from Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa indicate that women who have experienced violence are up to three times more likely to contract HIV than those who have not.
“Violence makes women vulnerable because most of them fear the man’s wrath if they objected or if they asked for protection. A lot of women married to abusive men, alcoholics or drug addicts are likely to experience forced sex. This inaction means that they will more easily contract the disease,” Susan Kithika, a volunteer counsellor at Heal Africa and Tala VCT centre, points out.
“Gender based violence and HIV share many of the risk factors. These are gender inequities, poverty, lack of financial independence and education, alcohol and substance abuse, rigid gender roles and one experiencing or witnessing abuse as a child. That’s why we advocate for rape and violence victims to test for HIV,” confirms Dr Njiru.
Anna Naliaka has experienced this first hand. Her husband of 10 years started drinking heavily a few years ago, and was often out with various women.
The mother of three started by confronting her husband about his behavior, but that only ended up with him detaching from the family further.
Pushed by what she claims was the need to protect her children from being orphaned at an early age, she went for a HIV test. The results came back negative and she thought her solution lay in moving bedrooms to avoid what she claims was forced sex from her husband.
“He wasn’t happy. One day he came home drunk and forced himself into the spare bedroom that I was occupying and demanded his rights. I resisted, but he started beating me and accused me of withholding what was rightfully his. I had no choice but to sleep with him,” she says.
Later, through family interventions, the man consented to having a HIV test, which unfortunately turned positive.
“I told him I was willing to stay on as his wife. My only condition was that he should stop sleeping around and that we should use a condom. Everything was okay for some months, but then he was back to his old ways. And he started insisting that condoms were not really his thing, especially with a wife,” the 35 year old financial advisor says.