Who is still having unprotected sex in this day and age?

“Sometimes I end up having sex without protection. Sometimes, some of the clients with a lot of money prefer sex without protection”- Chantal, sex worker. 

Those are the words I read yesterday morning, recoiling in horror. ‘HIV infection at 51 percent among sex workers’, an article in The New Times stated. This statistic, put forward by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, is extremely scary especially when compared to the countrywide HIV rate of three percent, according to the 2010 Demographic Health Survey.  Someone is obviously infecting and getting infected by these sex workers. So, two questions must be asked; why are sex workers risking their lives by discarding condom use and why are the clients choosing to risk their lives just so they can go in ‘live’?

While I totally understand why sex workers, plagued by poverty and destitution, play Russian roulette with their lives, I can’t, for the life of me, understand why their clients do the same. Are all these men (and women) already HIV positive, and therefore uncaring of what happens to them as a result? I doubt that. Therefore, we have a significant number of Rwandans, simply throwing away their lives for a few minutes pleasure.

Which then makes me wonder, are these people all crazy OR is the anti-HIV message somehow being lost in translation? If it’s the former, then there is nothing that we can do, after all, they are adults. However, if it is the latter, we all have a responsibility to educate and influence a behavioral change.

For one to prove just how precarious our anti-HIV drive is, all you have to do is look north, to Uganda. Along with Chad, Uganda is the only country in Africa where HIV prevalence is increasing. This, despite the fact that Uganda was at the forefront of the HIV fight less than a decade ago. While there is more than one explanation for this, a major cause of this is the prevailing blasé attitude towards this pandemic.

Frank Matsiko, a counsellor with the Ugandan NGO Integrated Community Based Initiatives, told Think Africa Press that “some people – especially those who are not well sensitised – have relaxed and taken it for granted that one can have HIV and go on treatment and stay as long as he  (or she) wants.”

The ‘relaxed attitude’ issue is extremely pertinent here in this country, more so   because Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) is free. While our HIV rates are low, we must not take our eyes off the ball.  In just seven years, Uganda’s HIV rate has increased from 6.4 % in 2005 to 7.3% today.

Must our leaders be angels?

I’ve watched the General David Patraeus imbroglio with a lot of amusement, and a bit of bewilderment as well. The former head of the CIA and decorated army man, had an affair with Paula Broadwell, cheating on his wife of 38 years. Throw in the fact that it seems that the good general was also seeing someone else on the side as well, and we have a good ol’ scandal on our hands.  While I cannot condone marital infidelity, I really cannot be bothered about what an official does in his spare time. Oh course the media jumped on the story, and why not? It is juicy and has attractive protagonists. However, should a man have lost his job? Not in my opinion.  There has to be a clear divide on what is private and what is public.

In this case, the infidelity was a matter between his wife and himself and I’m of the opinion that the US President shouldn’t have accepted his resignation.  After all, as a wise man once said, “he without sin, cast the first stone”.

Gen Petraeus, his wife and the mistress lurking about

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8 thoughts on “Who is still having unprotected sex in this day and age?

  1. Kim says:

    Thanks for the article, Sunny. As a public health worker, I would like to point out that what’s even more risky are sexually transmitted infections besides HIV. Some people forget that there are other incurable diseases (like Herpes) which are much more prevalent and easily transmittable than HIV. In addition, it’s not just sex workers, their clients, and unfaithful people who are at risk of getting STIs including HIV — anyone who has unprotected sex is exposed. So don’t take the risk. A couple minutes of pleasure could end up in a lifetime of suffering and shame!

  2. Nziza says:

    I like how you’ve raised the issue of safe sex and it would be great if we could get a solution for the crazies coz when they get sick they affect more people than just themselves.
    On Gen Petraeus, I’m not sure he could have effectively separated his public and private life with the US press, his emotions and especially if his wife decides seek a divorce or separation. Hard to see his work going on as usual. Things maybe would have been very different if he was a general in a typical sub-saharan country. I don’t know if that’s good or bad…

  3. Ali says:

    Thanks for writing this Sunny. It’s sad people forget the risks and help spread the disease. If you talk to anyone on ART, they will tell you that they don’t feel well. It keeps you alive longer, but there are many side effects that make you feel sick. They have to take many pills, many times a day. It changes their whole life. It is not something to easily say “eh, oh well, I can just be on ART.” and it infuriates me that people have this kind of attitude. The governments and health institutions need to work hard to dispell this myth.

    There is no reason HIV rates should be increasing. Condoms and ART should be widely available and, if possible, free (and already are in many places). You’re taking the first step in halting the spread, by communicating about it and making it known; letting people know that by visiting prostitutes they are putting themselves at a huge risk! (did the article also cover safer sex practices? Is this article in the New Times? I think you should go on a radio show and have this be a topic of discussion: “crazy or not? people visiting prostitutes without condoms”) Obviously it’s not only prostitutes who have HIV, but with such a high percentage, this data should be communicated widely, especially with people going without condoms! Arg!

    I would like to see more recent data on HIV rates in Rwanda. I wonder if they also have increased due to the false sense of security a low percentage such as 3% offers. I pray not.

  4. Thanks for this post. This is such an important subject. It would be interesting to know what assistance the Rwandan Government offers for sex workers in terms of health and education. I am a little puzzled though how the Petraeus affair ended up in a post about Aids…

  5. Ceri says:

    Well, for one, most people in the billion dollar porn industry in LA, definitely AREN’T using protection. And they are threatening to sue if they have to : http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2013-01-11/porn-producer-sues-to-block-los-angeles-condom-law. ( I have a sneaky suspicion that a lot of the men who visit prostitutes get most of their ‘creative’ condomless ideas from these actors).

    My question is how can we make it easier for young women to access condoms so that they have more control over protecting themselves? Or just women in general. Ali, Kim, et al, any idea about the prevalence/incidence rates of HIV among married couples?

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