HIV / AIDS among Kenyan Youth

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In 2001, Sub-Saharan Africa recorded the highest number of

deaths from HIV/AIDS, with 29.4 million people living with

AIDS; 10 million young people and 3 million children. Among

these, 12.2 million were women and 10.1 million men. In 2002,

3.5 million new infections were reported. From this backdrop,

Kenyans were interviewed on their perceptions of sex and

condom use within heterosexual relationships revealing that

denial and silence played a major role in the escalation of the

pandemic while gender differences, culture and power were

perceived as negatively impacting negotiation of sex and

condom use within Kenyan communities.

Kagutui ka mucie gatihakagwo ageni.

(The secrets of one’s home are not to be revealed to strangers)

- Gikuyu proverb

AIDS was a disease that shines in hush and thrives on secrecy. It was

prospering because people were choosing not to talk about it. It was

this realization that provoked me to go wider, beyond my personal

circle, beyond the people I worked with. The quieter we keep it the

more people it will affect and stigmatize, especially while people

believe that AIDS affects some people and not others (Kaleeba 29).

This article is based on semi structured interviews with four Kenyan men

and women on how they perceive, and negotiate sex and condom use

within heterosexual relationships. It focuses on gender, culture and

power, and how these dynamics are projected, if at all, in participants’

negotiation of sexual relationships within the Kenyan community. The

purpose of the study is to understand the relationship between gender,

power and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Sub-Saharan Africa has recently recorded the highest incidences of

death from HIV/AIDS with a total of 29.4 million people living with the

disease. Among these, ten million are young people aged fifteen to

twenty four while three million are children under the age of fifteen. In

the year 2002, 3.5 million new infections were reported (UNAIDS 2).

One reason for this seemingly recent rise in the number of infections

is the result of years of denial and silence about the existence of

HIV/AIDS. Recent statistics indicate that Botswana’s adult prevalence

Sex, HIV/AIDS and Silence


rate for example, has peaked to 38.8 %, Lesotho 31%, Swaziland 33.4%

and Zimbabwe 33.7%. In total, Africa experiences 6,000 AIDS related

deaths per day and Kenya, 18 deaths per hour (UNAIDS 3).

Researchers, educators and governments now suggest the need [for]

culturally sensitive knowledge of sexual beliefs and practices as a way

forward to understanding and evaluating patterns of HIV/AIDS

transmission in different communities, in view of designing effective

intervention programs (Lansky 3).

This paper focuses on a study of culture and HIV/AIDS, and what

effects gender differences and power might be having on HIV/AIDS

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