Professor Chimombo faciliated a “simulation” of STD transmission modes by assigning parts and assembling each character on the floor next to their pretend partner who might have HIV or other secrets.

In the discussions that followed, what surprised me most (well, not really all that surprising) was what women in general have to face in Malawi: cultural mores and expectations disfavoring women, sexual exploitation and neglect, lack of communication in marriage, gender violence, family members living with AIDS, weekly deaths of church members and funerals to attend, denial and stigma, and extreme poverty.

It was amazing to me how open and willing these women were to talk about the details of their lives: their daily struggles in marriage and family, church and society, stigma associated with HIV testing, predatory behavior, multiple sex partners, condom-use, and how to deal with a husband or family member with AIDS. Discussion questions like “should you pack condoms for your husband if he is going on a long trip away from home?” are not commonly discussed in public among pastors’ wives and church members. But extra-ordinary provisions are called for in apocalyptic times.