HIV prevention: mapping Mozambican people's views on the acceptability of the widow's sexual cleansing ritual called pita-kufa
BACKGROUND: In Mozambique, the widow is traditionally required to undergo a cleansing ritual called pita-kufa, which generally involves several sessions of unprotected sexual intercourse with the brother of her deceased husband. This ritual may play a role in the spread of HIV and reveals, to some degree, the subordinate position to which women are subjected in Mozambican society. Thus, this study's aim was to map Mozambicans' views on the acceptability of this ritual, given the gender and public health concerns linked to it.
METHODS: A total of 359 Mozambicans participated in the study. The data collection instrument consisted of 18 vignettes describing realistic pita-kufa situations, varying as a function of three factors: a widow's willingness or not to perform the ritual, the perceived effectiveness of the ritual, and the risk level of HIV infection linked to the practice. For each pita-kufa situation presented in the vignettes, the participants were asked to rate its acceptability on an 11-point scale. In addition, the participants wrote comments giving their general views on the ritual. A cluster analysis using the K-means procedure was applied to the quantitative raw data to capture different perspectives, and the participants' written comments were subjected to thematic and frequency content analysis.
RESULTS: From the data gathered though the vignettes, three different perspectives were found: total unacceptability (55% of the participants), conditional acceptability (29% of the participants) and unconditional acceptability (16% of the participants). From the data gathered though the participants' written comments, it emerged that they thought that the practice of this ritual should evolve (61%), stop (27%) and be kept as it is (12%).
CONCLUSION: According to the main results, it seems that a large majority of study participants think that this ritual is outdated and needs to evolve in order to minimize the risk of HIV transmission and respect women's rights.