By Mercy Makuwatsine
When a couple falls in love, gets married and stays together, one thing people ask is â€˜Is the woman pregnant now?â€™ Relatives and friends will be looking every time they meet the woman to see if she has become pregnant. The issue is different with a woman who meets a man and thinks that the man really loves her, falls pregnant, but is abandoned by her man.
ÂThe two women will at some point have to visit the clinic and register their pregnancies.
It is during such clinical visits that issues of HIV tests and Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) crop up.
The reality is that HIV has come and is claiming lives, whether adult, young or unborn. The coming of the human immuno-deficiency syndrome has prompted 147 heads of state in September 2001 to collectively endorse Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5: To reduce child mortality rate by two thirds and maternal mortality ratio by three quarters until 2015. Strongly linked to these is Goal 6: To halt or begin to reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Zimbabwe, which is a member of the United Nations, has embarked on a programme to help reduce mother to child transmission of HIV during and after birth. In an effort to achieve this, local maternity clinics are calling for every pregnant mother to register their pregnancy and get tested for HIV.
TheÂ government has moved in to support the testing of pregnant mothers and is calling for couples to be tested. The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Robert Mugabe, recently said men should be at the forefront in the fight against the HIV pandemic and encouraged men to go for HIV tests. The government is encouraging men to support their wives before, during and after birth especially when they have to undergo processes to do with HIV testing.
When I visited Budiriro 1 Polyclinic recently, the nurses were calling on pregnant mothers to come in with their husbands and get tested as couples.
While I appreciate the idea of bringing in the husbands for testing, I feel it is segregational to those mothers who might not be having husbands due to various circumstances for them to be registered and tested after couples.
Some might have been raped, while others are widowed and divorced. Still, some husbands are naturally against the idea of getting tested for HIV and so they may refuse to cooperate.
I talked to one man, Mr Nhamo, who said: â€œWhen my wife told me to go for the HIV test with her, I was afraid and I decided to run to town first to be tested on my own.
â€œHad I tested positive, I would have run away, However, they were negative, so thatâ€™s when I finally went back to my wife and accompanied her to the clinic for the HIV test.â€
What if the man had ran away? What would become of the wife? I then asked the nurses if it was possible for those women without husbands to be tested. The nurses said they first attend to married women who bring their husbands before they attend to single women with their argument being that the men will be going for their various jobs so they should be tested first with their wives. Is this not segregation?
I feel the clinics should change their policy and treat every woman on a first-come-first-served basis. Clinics such as Highfield, Braeside and Warren Park, to mention a few, are not segregational and they treat every woman equally.
It does not mean that if someone does not have a husband they should receive second-class treatment.
Most of these women might be in such situations not because of their will, but because some husbands who are sometimes called â€˜kidsâ€™ fear responsibility and usually if they impregnate a woman, they run away and only resurface when the baby has grown up.
Pregnant women are required to pay US$30 when registering at clinics, an amount which accommodates the HIV test, blood pressure and diabetes tests among others.
The fee also caters for the delivery process and mothers can pay more when they have complications during delivery.
So after paying such an amount a pregnant mother has to wait for those with husbands to be served first, even though the fee is the same for married and single pregnant women.
The health department really has to look into this issue and help the disadvantaged mothers.