No law protecting Women living with HIV/AIDS

Burundian Women living with HIV/ AIDS complain that they are not protected by their society: They are mistreated by their own husbands, raped and ill-treated at work. They claim for a special law protecting them.By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

A family picture of participants.©Iwacu

A family picture of participants.©Iwacu

On the occasion of the Women’s Day Celebration, the International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS Eastern Africa has organized a conference this 4th April at Bujumbura. The objective of that conference was to gather women living with HIV and AIDS in order to talk together about their problems so that they could change their situation. Christine Bizimana, Representative of the International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS Burundi (ICWB) indicates that their community is composed of more than 2000 members present in all provinces of the Country. “This conference has been made possible thanks to the financial support of International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS Eastern Africa (ICWEA),” she praises. Dorothée Namutamba, the ICWEA Secretary points out that ICWEA is one of branches of the International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS ICW based in Uganda. Each country from East African Community gives two members who contribute to the community ideas and projects of development. “Our objective is to sensitize women living with HIV and AIDS not to be stigmatized. We help them to know how to behave so that they can develop themselves,” she says.

Women living with HIV/AIDS are both discriminated and mistreated in EAC

According to Bizimana, women are not generally considered in Burundi. What is worse, those living with HIV and AIDS, face a double discrimination. “Even if the Government tries to support them, they are still mistreated by their husbands, neighbors, employers and even in churches. It is painful to see how the Burundian Justice does not consider those women when they address their accusations because it is sometimes corrupt,” complains Bizimana. E.H, through her testimony indicates that men often treat women living with HIV with disdain even though the latter have been contaminated by their husbands. She accuses the Burundian justice to be corrupt. “I was contaminated by my own husband. After 3 years of marriage, we got two children and he started mistreating me. He beat me every day; one day he burned me into the sex, saying that he no longer wanted to make love with me. Thereafter, he finally drove me away and I was brutally stripped of my children with the support of policemen. I have appealed but in vain, because the justice is corrupt,” she says with tears in her eyes. The view is supported by Namutamba who indicates that in EAC countries women are not considered. “Women living with HIV are not supported enough: they need to be medically and totally supported, they have to be sensitized enough because 20% of children are born with HIV because of ignorance of their mothers,” she regrets.
Government and policy makers should create an environment for Women Living with HIV, free from discrimination and abuse to inspire the positive change and put an end to the HIV epidemic. Government and other implementing partners of women’s sexual reproductive Health program should provide accurate information to women living with HIV. Government should implement a special law protecting Women Living with HIV.