Traditional leaders gear up to tackle AIDS

In the run-up to World AIDS Day on 1 December more than 100 traditional leaders in Zambia have pledged to tackle sexual and cultural practices that hinder efforts to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in rural areas.

The pledge was made at a recent national summit of traditional leaders in the capital, Lusaka, aimed at building consensus to scale up the fight against the pandemic in the rural areas.

The most common cultural practices by the various ethnic groups in Zambia include sexual cleansing after the death of a spouse, and polygamy.

In recent years children have also fallen victim to sexual cleansing, because it is believed that unprotected penetrative sex with a child cures illnesses and afflictions.

In an interview with the South African Press Association (SAPA), the country's minister of health, Brian Chituwo, said, given the role of traditional leaders, their decision could greatly help in combating one of the most serious social and economic crises ever faced by the country.