African Advocate Links AIDS to Position of Women | CBE International

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African Advocate Links AIDS to Position of Women

Princess Kasune Zulu learned about a disease called AIDS in her early 20s in Zambia. Even though she was healthy and didn’t suspect she had it, she felt compelled to check her HIV status.

“The hospital would not test me without my husband’s consent,” Zulu said in a World Vision article. “My husband threatened to kill or divorce me if I went for a test and if I went public about it because he would lose his job and everything else.”

This was part of the story 27-year-old Zulu shared in an intimate meal with the CBE staff on April 4, coordinated by World Vision media liaison and CBE member Brian Peterson. Through World Vision, Zulu speaks around the world as an advocate for HIV/AIDS issues, and she visited CBE after a Minneapolis speaking engagement.

Zulu discovered she and her husband were HIV-positive, but her children tested negative. Instead of being overcome with grief, she has dedicated herself to making a difference. She speaks internationally, hosts an informational radio show in Africa, and has opened a school for AIDS orphans.

AIDS touched Zulu’s life at an early age, as her parents became sick when she was 14 years old. In fact, she carried her ailing father on her back to a clinic about 10 kilometers away, but the doctors there weren’t able to treat him because they lacked medicine. Now that she can recognize the symptoms of AIDS, she is sure it was the cause of her parents’ deaths.

After her parents died, Zulu left school to care for her siblings. Since her mother left only $200 to the family in her will, they faced many financial difficulties. To help the family, Zulu married at age 18. African women struggling to support themselves have few options, said Zulu. They often see prostitution or marriage as the only ways to survive. And because women are often uneducated about the risk of HIV/AIDS, they can easily contract the disease.

Zulu said that the spread of AIDS in Africa is related to a low view of women, an opinion confirmed in a Wall Street Journal article published on July 9, 2002. Reporting from the International AIDS Conference in Spain, the article stated that the spread of HIV is related to “the emotionally charged, culturally entrenched ways that men and women interact sexually.”

In a patriarchal society, men often have multiple sexual partners and determine whether a condom is used, according to a report from the Panos Institute cited in the article. As a result, a Unicef report says that females make up more than two-thirds of infected 15- to 24- year-olds in sub- Saharan Africa. With that many infected women, their deaths have left behind an estimated 12 million orphans, many of whom also have AIDS.

Instead of becoming discouraged by such dismal statistics, Zulu works for change through education, believing the AIDS pandemic can be stopped. She emphasizes the need to empower women and men with the truth about AIDS and its link to the oppression of women. Zulu’s vitality, courage and passion were an inspiration to the CBE staff. The rapid bonding and exchange of ideas that occurred between the staff and Zulu touched President Mimi Haddad.

 “We discovered a new sister in Christ,” said Haddad. “We prayed together, each in our own language. The day gave new meaning to my image of the body of Christ.”

After Zulu’s visit, the staff began to explore how CBE can be more involved in reaching Africa with biblical equality. Haddad sent an e-mail to some members working in Africa to explore the idea of bringing CBE resources there, and she said the response was overwhelming. Many members offered assistance.

In addition, a member with Wycliffe Bible Translators offered to translate CBE’s “Statement on Men, Women and Biblical Equality” into Swahili, the most widely spoken African language. Many others offered ideas, such as new curriculum or a conference in Africa.

 “God is working indeed, and CBE is responding to a clear call from God to be involved in work in Africa,” said Haddad. 

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CBE advances the gospel by equipping Christians to use their God-given talents in leadership and service regardless of gender, ethnicity, or class. Together with supporters and ministry partners from 100 denominations and 65 countries, CBE works to inspire and mobilize women and men with the Bible’s call to lead and serve as equals.

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