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Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research

ISSN: 2155-6113

Open Access

Marriage Partner Selection by Heterosexual Couples Living with HIV from Rural Southern Malawi

Abstract

Belinda Chimphamba Gombachika, Ellen Chirwa, Johanne Sundby, Address Malata, Alfred Maluwa and Heidi Fjeld

This paper explores marriage partner selection in couples living with HIV using a qualitative research method. The study was conducted in Chikwawa and Chiradzulu districts in Southern Malawi which follow patrilineal and matrilineal marriage traditions, respectively. Data was collected from 20 informants using in-depth interviews from July– December 2010. Four out of 10 matrilineal couples and six out of 10 patrilineal couples established their new marriages when they were HIV-positive. They chose a marriage partner living with HIV because they felt that they would understand each other well and that it was easy to follow the guidelines for HIV positive living thereby negotiating the threat of social stigma from the communities. The results show that, HIV status is important in the decisions that the couples living with HIV make in terms of selecting marriage partners. However, once the new marriage relationships are established based on same HIV positive status, the HIV positive status no longer deters them from having unprotected sexual relationships as evidenced from the children that some of the couples were bearing. The couples indulged in unprotected sex despite being aware that unprotected sex increases the risks of mother to child transmission of HIV and also increases HIV viral load in their bodies. This paper contributes to the literature on living with HIV by focusing on marriage partner selection. Specifically, the findings increase our understanding of how in the pursuit of a normal life people living with HIV decisions to get married, and in the course select the marriage partners that are also living with HIV. We argue that the issue of same status marriage should be dealt with in health programmes in order to limit the risk of new forms of infection. Health care workers and peergroup leaders must be trained on the dangers of HIV super-infection and reproductive decisions, rights, ethics for couples living with HIV. Further studies are needed in Malawi to better inform policy in the formulation of evidence based prevention strategies for couples living with HIV which, in the long run, would address issues of maternal and child mortality from HIV and AIDS.

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