Sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS risk perception in the Malawi tourism industry|
Malawi has for a long time relied on agriculture for the generation of foreign exchange. Due to varied reasons like climate change, the Malawi government has, therefore, identified tourism as one way of boosting foreign exchange earnings and is already in the process of developing the sector especially in the area of ecotourism. However, tourism is associated with increasing prostitution, drug abuse and a whole range of other sexual and reproductive health (SRH) problems such as teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This paper examines the knowledge, attitudes, practices and behaviour as well as risk perceptions associated with HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies among staff in the tourism industry and communities around tourist facilities in Malawi. The study was descriptive in nature and used both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The qualitative methods involved in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The quantitative technique employed a survey of 205 purposively selected subjects from the tourism sector. The study concludes that people in the tourism sector are at high risk of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies and should be considered as a vulnerable group. The study further observes that this group of people has not adopted behaviours that can protect them from HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies although there is high demand for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) which offers a very good entry point for HIV prevention and treatment in the tourism sector. The study recommends that a comprehensive tourism policy covering tourists, employees and communities around tourist facilities is required. Such a policy should address the rights of HIV infected employees and the provision of prevention and treatment services for HIV/AIDS and STIs as well as a broad range of SRH and family planning services especially the condom which offers
dual protection for pregnancy and STIs including HIV.