SOCIO-CULTURAL RELIGIOUS CONSTRUCTIONS ON WOMEN FERTILITY AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF HIV AND AIDS IN SWAZILAND
The latest Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey, or SHIMS 2, funded by the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief shows that Swaziland has nearly halved the number of new HIV infections among adults since 2011. This achievement is largely attributed to the rapid scaling up of the number of people accessing antiretroviral therapy, (ART). While new HIV cases are declining generally, women are at least three times more likely to contract the disease than their male counterparts (UNICEF 2017). This is attributed to high levels of sexual violence, widespread poverty and patriarchal norms that limit women's decision-making on their sexual health. This paper therefore argues that socio-cultural religious constructions on women fertility, embedded in patriarchal structures and systems that uphold and reinforce inequalities between women and men, put Swazi women at a health risk. It is these constructions that are largely responsible for the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS amongst women. Shaped by the patriarchal worldview, Swazi society places a high value on childbearing as a means to perpetuate the bloodline of the father, and for social cohesion; hence the importance of women fertility. Framed within an exploratory and critical feminist research paradigm, the paper advocates for a reorientation of the patriarchal thinking on women fertility, as a means to effectively deal with the high prevalence of the virus amongst Swazi women.