Sharon Siwale-Fumbeshi

Sharon Siwale-Fumbeshi
Me, Myself and I

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Christmas Message to my readers

I would like to take this opportunity to wish my readers and subscribers, a Merry Christmas.
Christmas is a time of sharing and giving, being with your loved ones and the less fortunate.
I hope you're spending this holiday season with those dear to your heart and let's not forget the homeless and the orphans.
It's going to be my first time spending Christmas with my son as my husband is away, but you know what? I intend to put a smile on a child' face. I will spend my Christmas with my house helper and her family, Salome.She is in her late 50's, takes care of her three grandchildren.
Remember to always count your blessings and be thankful for everything you have.
Take some time to pause, reflect and share some love to the people that mean most to your life.
This year has been amazing, this blog is only 4 months and it has over 3,500 views. Good things are definitely coming.
Am busy working on ways to improve it, next year, will be an even better year.
Thanking you for your support.
Happy Holidays, till next year. My holiday begins now!!
Much Love
Sharon Siwale-Fumbeshi

Friday, 2 December 2011

Climate change also affects urban women

By Saeanna Chingamuka  
01 December 2011
It has been an exciting journey to be present at the COP 17 meeting currently underway in Durban. I have attended interesting meetings, with charismatic speakers like the one who kept saying that Africa is being forced to adapt to a situation that it did not create. Yes, we did not create the conditions that brought climate change, but since we are a global village, is it not fair for us to face our problems as a global family? Or do we have selective amnesia when it comes to what globalisation means?
The 1994 State of the Environment in Southern Africa points out that between 1991 and 1992, Southern Africa, excluding Namibia, experienced the worst drought in living memory. There were serious food and water shortages and livestock perished.
I lived in a densely populated township in Harare, Zimbabwe. Our household owned an old and massive Supersonic radio whose volume could not be reduced and was permanently on high. This is a radio that was well past its best before date, but being a low-income family, we somehow forced it to work. I remember this because 1991 was very traumatic for me and the messages from that radio were quite disturbing.
Reports on national radio, remember that the volume was very high, said that the country was facing serious food shortages and had to import yellow maize. Through the radio's frequent updates, we went on a journey with the trains that brought maize into the country. When the train got stuck, we would know that by the end of the week, if that goods train was not fixed, there would be no mealie-meal in the house.
Anyway, I want to write about a day in my mother's life during that period.
Firstly, there were the water shortages. We knew back then that every 15 October we would have the first rains. By the time we got into the New Year, most dams would have filled to capacity. But things changed in 1991. We had erratic rainfall.
There were adverts on radio that people should save water, use buckets to water the gardens instead of hosepipes, and that the local municipality would start to ration water. Water rations became water scarcity; we would go without water for one day, then it became a week and then it even got to one month.
My mother had to wake up early in the morning before sunrise to fetch water from unprotected sources on the outskirts of the township. This water would be for the toilet, cleaning the house and washing the dishes, among other things. For drinking, we had two 25 litre containers and we had to use this water sparingly. If one container finished, my mother had to travel to the nearest suburb on foot to get clean water. She would then walk back with her container balanced on her head.
She also had to provide food for the family and our staple food in Zimbabwe is maize. Every day, we have to eat sadza or pap. We were not used to other alternatives like rice or pasta. So she had to go and queue at the local shopping centre several times in the week only to be lucky on one of the days and get a 10 kilogram bag of maize meal. How long would it last before she had to go to the shopping centre to join the queues again?
Climate change had already started knocking on our doors. We just didn't know it.
Being a young woman then, I felt for my mother. She had to provide food on the table, make sure we had clean water to drink, and water for other domestic purposes. My father would not worry about all those things. He would give my mother money to go and look for mealie-meal. The water in the house, he simply did not care.
I have remembered the period between 1991 and 1992 at this COP 17 meeting. Many discussions are around agro-ecology, climate jobs, gas emissions and adapting to climate change. When a presenter refers to women, chances are very high that it will be rural women.
We should not forget that climate change also affects urban women. Just because they are staying in urban areas does not mean that they are spared. The township we used to stay in in 1991 is still there. Taps have since dried up as the local council cannot provide clean water to residents. It is not their own making, but other factors including erratic rainfalls come to play. But residents still have to pay water bills every month end.
 Women have had to fetch water from unprotected sources. This exposes families to water borne diseases such as cholera. Discussions at COP 17 should not sideline women in urban areas. They are equally affected and strategies put in place by local government should take into consideration the differential impact of climate change on women and men.
 The burden of access to clean and safe water remains. We should therefore not forget during this years' Sixteen days of Activism that climate change also perpetuates violence against women. If women have to walk a few more kilometres to the closest clean water source, it exposes them to physical and sexual abuse. Service providers in local government should thus opt to sink boreholes in urban areas at central points that are safe and easily accessible for women.

Saeanna Chingamuka is the Gender and Media Diversity Centre Manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service and African Woman and Child Feature Service special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Contraceptive Used in Africa May Double Risk of H.I.V.


Published: October 3, 2011
The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, appears to double the risk the women will become infected with H.I.V., according to a large study published Monday. And when it is used by H.I.V.-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception.  
The findings potentially present an alarming quandary for women in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of them suffer injuries, bleeding, infections and even death in childbirth from unintended pregnancies. Finding affordable and convenient contraceptives is a pressing goal for international health authorities.
But many countries where pregnancy rates are highest are also ravaged by H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. So the evidence suggesting that the injectable contraceptive has biological properties that may make women and men more vulnerable to H.I.V. infection is particularly troubling.
Injectable hormones are very popular. About 12 million women between the ages of 15 and 49 in sub-Saharan Africa, roughly 6 percent of all women in that age group, use them. In the United States, it is 1.2 million, or 3 percent of women using contraception. While the study involved only African women, scientists said biological effects would probably be the same for all women. But they emphasized that concern was greatest in Africa because the risk of H.I.V. transmission from heterosexual sex was so much higher there than elsewhere.
“The best contraception today is injectable hormonal contraception because you don’t need a doctor, it’s long-lasting, it enables women to control timing and spacing of birth without a lot of fuss and travel,” said Isobel Coleman, director of the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. “If it is now proven that these contraceptions are helping spread the AIDS epidemic, we have a major health crisis on our hands.”
The study, which several experts said added significant heft to previous research while still having some limitations, has prompted the World Health Organization to convene a meeting in January to consider if evidence is now strong enough to advise women that the method may increase their risk of getting or transmitting H.I.V.
“We are going to be re-evaluating W.H.O.’s clinical recommendations on contraceptive use,” said Mary Lyn Gaffield, an epidemiologist in the World Health Organization’s department of reproductive health and research. Before the meeting, scientists will review research concerning hormonal contraceptives and women’s risk of acquiring H.I.V., transmitting it to men, and the possibility (not examined in the new study) that hormonal contraceptives accelerate H.I.V.’s severity in infected women.
“We want to make sure that we warn when there is a real need to warn, but at the same time we don’t want to come up with a hasty judgment that would have far-reaching severe consequences for the sexual and reproductive health of women,” she said. “This is a very difficult dilemma.”
The study, led by researchers at the University of Washington and published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, involved 3,800 couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In each couple, either the man or the woman was already infected with H.I.V. Researchers followed most couples for two years, had them report their contraception methods, and tracked whether the uninfected partner contracted H.I.V. from the infected partner, said Dr. Jared Baeten, an author and an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist.
The research was presented at an international AIDS conference this summer, but has now gained traction, scientists said, with publication in a major peer-reviewed journal.
 The manufacturer of the branded version of the injectable, Depo-Provera, is Pfizer, which declined to comment on the study, saying officials had not yet read it. The study’s authors said the injectables used by the African women were probably generic versions.
The study found that women using hormonal contraception became infected at a rate of 6.61 per 100 person-years, compared with 3.78 for those not using that method. Transmission of H.I.V. to men occurred at a rate of 2.61 per 100 person-years for women using hormonal contraception compared with 1.51 for those who did not.
While at least two other rigorous studies have found that injectable contraceptives increase the risk of women’s acquiring H.I.V., the new research has some strengths over previous work, said Charles Morrison, senior director of clinical sciences at FHI 360, a nonprofit organization whose work includes researching the intersection of family planning and H.I.V.
Those strengths include the fact that researchers followed couples and were therefore able to track transmission of H.I.V. to both men and women. Dr. Morrison said only one other less rigorous study had looked at whether hormonal contraception increased the risk of infected women’s transmitting the virus to men.
“This is a good study, and I think it does add some important evidence,” said Dr. Morrison, who wrote a commentary accompanying the Lancet article.
Although the study has limitations, including its use of data not originally intended to determine the link between contraceptive use and H.I.V., “I think this does raise the suspicion” that injectable contraceptives could increase transmission risk, he said.
Why that would occur is unclear. The researchers recorded condom use, essentially excluding the possibility that increased infection occurred because couples using contraceptives were less likely to use condoms.
The progestin in injectable contraceptives appears to have a physiological effect, scientists said. Renee Heffron, an epidemiologist and co-author of the study, said research examining whether the hormone changes genital tissue or vaginal mucous had been inconclusive. Studies in macaques found that progestin thins vaginal tissue, she said, “but studies among women didn’t show the same amount of thinning.”
It could be that progestin causes “immunologic changes in the vagina and cervix” or could increase the H.I.V.’s “ability to replicate,” Dr. Morrison said.
At one point, the researchers measured the concentration of H.I.V. in infected women’s genital fluid, finding “there was more H.I.V. in the genital fluid of those using hormonal contraception than those who aren’t,” Dr. Baeten said, a possible reason men might have increased risk of infection from hormonal contraceptive users. Those women “don’t have more H.I.V. in their blood,” he said.
The researchers also found that oral contraceptives appeared to increase risk of H.I.V. infection and transmission, but the number of pill users in the study was too small to be considered statistically significant, the authors said.
Previous research on the pill has been more mixed than with injectables, which could have a greater impact because they involve a strong dose meant to last for three months, Dr. Baeten said.
In another troubling finding, results from the same study, published separately, showed that pregnancy also doubled the risk of women’s contracting H.l.V. and of infected women’s transmitting it to men. That may partly be due to increased unprotected sex, but could also relate to hormones, researchers said.
But there are no simple solutions, the authors acknowledge. Any warning against such a popular contraceptive method may not only increase complications from pregnancy but increase H.I.V. transmission, too, since pregnancy itself may raise a woman’s risk of H.I.V. infection.
First, the researchers and others say, greater emphasis should be placed on condom use along with hormonal methods.
Some experts, like Dr. Morrison, favor a randomized controlled trial for more definitive proof, but others question how to “randomize women who may have strong preferences about their contraception,” he added.
Dr. Ludo Lavreys, an epidemiologist who led one of the first studies to link injectable contraceptives to increased H.I.V. risk, said intrauterine devices, implants and other methods should be explored and expanded. “Before you stop” recommending injectables, he said, “you have to offer them something else.”
The New York Times