BY PATIENCE NYANGOVE
FORTY-year-old Margret Mugadziwa* from Chiweshe communal lands in Mashonaland Central has a death wish.
The mother of four, who is the youngest wife in a polygamous marriage, is desperate to be HIV- positive so that she can fit in her family. Her husband and his first wife both tested HIV-positive a year ago but after more than 20 visits to testing centres Mugadziwa has returned negative.
She fears that what others would consider as good news will be a curse that will ruin her marriage. Mugadziwa re-married after her first husband’s death and has been blessed with two children.
Unfortunately the second child died at infancy due to an undisclosed illness. She says her problems started last year when her husband fell sick and was found to be HIV- positive after he was encouraged to go and get tested at the local hospital.
The first wife also tested positive after they were encouraged to go for tests, but Mugadziwa was found HIV-negative. “I was reluctant to go for tests because I believed that by virtue of our husband testing HIV-positive, I would also test positive,” she said.
“All I wanted was for the doctor to just give me the anti-retroviral drugs so that I could get on with my life”.
However, Mugadziwa said she got the shock of her life when she was told that she was HIV-negative. Each time she has gone to the voluntary testing centres she has been praying that the results would return positive.
“I know many people think I am crazy to want to be HIV-positive but the circumstances I am in dictate that I be HIV-positive,” she said. “It’s not easy to be taunted or accused of being the one who bewitched others so that they can get the virus. They always ask me why I don’t have the virus and I don’t have an explanation for that.”
She now believes that she is immune to the highly contagious disease that kills over 2 000 Zimbabweans every week. Mugadziwa and her husband are an example of a discordant couple, whereby one partner has HIV, the virus that causes Aids, and the other does not.
A survey in Uganda, one of the countries worst hit by the Aids pandemic showed that discordant couples were more common in polygamous marriages. The woman’s real name could not be used in order to protect the identity of the family.
Fitting in cannot outweigh staying negative— experts
Paidamoyo Magaya, the information and advocacy officer for the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with Aids (ZNNP+) said Mugadziwa and her family needed more counselling. She encouraged Mugadziwa to maintain her status at all costs.
“We encourage her to maintain her negative status,” Magaya said. “She should not try to get HIV- positive so that she fits in and must seek counselling so that she can deal with the stigma and discrimination better. This family obviously has not been told about discordant couples and this is why there are these issues of witchcraft. There is need for them to get that information.”
Owen Mugurungi, the director for the Tubercolosis and Aids unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare also urged Mugadziwa to look beyond “her great love for her husband” and also think about her children.
“We know that when love is deep people in relationships want to share the pain together but she should look beyond that and think about taking care of her children,” he said. “It’s better the way it is because in the event that her husband and the first wife die, she remains behind and takes care of the children.”
*Not real name