Manga Jackobine Buck
Community Health Training Center, Bamenda- Cameroon



Widow Inheritance and the HIV Chain in Cameroon

Despite the knowledge about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, people still engage in high-risk sex. Poverty, unemployment and domestic violence are social obstacles to safe sexual behavior of widows in Cameroon. Most sexual networking of widows is often caused by widow inheritance especially amongst young widows. Older widows are looked upon as "comfort women" and are the custodians of widow inheritance and stay safe of infection. Unfortunately, the men want to go for the younger and more expose widows.
Due to levirate cultures the surrogate husbands to the widow usually own every property that has been acquired by the deceased brother including his wife and children, leaving the widow with no choice than to submit to the surrogate husband for her survival and that of her children. Many widows in Cameroon spread HIV through sexual networking with other sexual partners they have acquired. Many widows have experienced emotional and physical abuses, and they lack economic or psychological resources to take control. A sense of fatalism often reduced their motivation to protect their sexual health.
The need for alternative support and education system is vital in Cameroon to educate and assist widows, as well as economic, psychological, cultural and social support to widows. Widows inherited by their surrogate husbands do that irrespective of how healthy they look, thereby proving that compulsory remarrying of widows because of customs requires education on widow inheritance and remarrying to prevent more spread of HIV infection in Cameroon. Accessibility to Condoms and education on how to use condoms and the importance of using condoms is important. With the above suggestions in place, the widow inheritance of HIV chain of infection in Cameroon as a whole can become the HIV chain of successful prevention (from widows to children, surrogate husbands, sexual partners etc) and the global success in HIV prevention in Africa.

Africa Conference 2005: African Health and Illness
Convened by Dr. Toyin Falola for the Center for African and African American Studies
Coordinated by Matthew Heaton Webmaster, Technical Coordinator: Sam Saverance