Martin Kaphamtengo aged 43 and Beatrice Kaphamtengo aged 39 were both born on October 20 and are from Dedza district and they got married in 1997. They were living a great life together until the year 2000 when Beatrice started to have persistent coughs and night sweating. They did not suspect anything until in April 2001 when she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. She finished her TB treatment eight months later and she did not thinking of having an HIV test because Martin had already tested several times and was found HIV negative.
Between the years 2001 and 2006, Beatrice was hospitalised several times because of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. In January 2006 she developed Candidiasis all over her mouth and the alimentary canal. As she was being treated for this ailment, she started to have diarrhea which was not responding to any medication. Coincidentally, while she was still ill, she received a magazine by the National AIDS Commission which carried a story of a discordant couple that had been married for a long time, which prompted Martina and Beatrice to begin thinking along the lines discordance and Beatrice subsequently tested for HIV in March 2006 and she tested HIV positive and started ART the same month.
When Beatrice returned home she reported everything to Martin and proposed that her HIV status should mark the end of nine year their marriage. Martin refused to end their marriage. He went for another HIV test and was still found HIV negative. They went through a dark period in their lives as a result of their discordance. Martin narrates that “I went through psychological and emotional problems as a result of our situation while Beatrice was socially and emotionally withdrawn”. Beatrice further narrates that they had challenges in using condoms because sometimes Martin felt that he had already contracted HIV and there was no need for them to use condoms to the extent that they could stay sexually inactive for sometime due to disagreements emanating from condoms use. It was until Beatrice joined a PLHIV support group and COWLHA women’s group that she was assisted to deal with her problems after discussing her problems with colleagues with similar problems.
The situation of Martin and Beatrice was a potential trigger of gender based violence if it were a set of different people involved. But Martin demonstrated extraordinary support for his wife. Beatrice narrates that Martin always says he is not going to end their marriage “because he promised to be with her in good times and in bad times and this was one of such times”. Beatrice further narrates that she thanks God for giving her a husband who is very understanding in Martin and she strongly believes that if Martin were another man, they would not have been together up to date. Martin and Beatrice have just been trained as Stepping Stones trainers for their community in order to deal with gender based violence. Martin has confessed that before the Stepping Stones training, he used to argue with his wife over the use of condoms within their marriage because he did not see the need while Beatrice always insisted on condom use. This was always a bone of contention in that they often disagreed on condom use but the Stepping Stones training has helped Martin to realize the importance of using condoms and he acknowledges that he never realised that he was violating the rights of his wife by insisting on not using condoms against her wish. Since the training was concluded, they have always used condoms and arguments arising from the use of condoms no longer happen. Martin has demonstrated that he is a true champion of women’s rights by sticking to his wife and not taking advantage of their situation to perpetrate violence against Beatrice his wife. He is a true gentleman that many men need to emulate!!!
COWLHA has just finalised compiling a report on intimate partner violence among people living with HIV. The research leading up to the report was supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Agaist Women (UNTF) and it aimed at getting insights into the forms and manifestations of violence among intimate partners.The research has collected baseline data on prevailing community demographics; gender roles and norms; violence against women; sexual attitudes; communication and behaviors; existing structures on redressing violence against women; HIV knowledge and stigma and discrimination from the targeted districts. The findings of the research are being used to design responsive gender and HIV programmes to enable COWLHA address the needs of its constituency of women living with HIV. The report is in the process of being published and it should be disseminated very soon.
To generate further evidence for our programmes, COWLHA is also in the process of conduting another research titled “GENDER BASED VIOLENCE AND HIV/AIDS IN MALAWI: LINKS, OPPORTUNITIES AND POTENTIAL RESPONSES”. The planned research recognises that decisive steps are being taken to address both HIV/AIDS and GBV, especially domestic violence in Malawi. However, there is lack of analysis and data about the linkages between GBV and HIV/AIDS. The goal of this research is to bridge this gap and uncover the linkages that exist between GBV and HIV/AIDS in Malawi in order to determine opportunities for strengthening gender-specific responses on AIDS as well as for addressing HIV related risks and consequences within the context of interventions against GBV. COWLHA will conduct this research in close collaboration with UNAIDS and technical guidance through a task team within the Sub-TWG on Gender, Culture, Human Rights.