27 January 2015 Author Lucy Maroncha Country Kenya Filed in Prevention and treatment of HIV
The controversy around a condom ad used to prevent HIV among married people led by a passing religious leaders of Kenya sections left many activists HIV shocked by the 'denial of reality'.
As a journalist and activist with HIV, I was shocked with the withdrawal of the notice after members of the Anglican Church and the Council of Imams and Pastors of Kenya argued that the ad was promoting promiscuity and infidelity rather than prevent HIV.
The TV ad, dubbed "weka mpangoni condom" ("including a condom in planning") sponsored by the Ministry of Public Health and USAID is tailored to educate millions of people married or living together on the importance of using condoms to avoid becoming infected or infecting their sexual partner if they were to have an affair.
(Editor's note seropositive web site = The video on this Kenyano language)
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Derailing the health campaign
This announcement to be broadcast on TV had the potential to reach thousands of people across the country with an important message. However, he was completely misunderstood by the religious leaders who understood that affairs were allowed with the use of condoms.
Their ignorance of the real issue at stake resulted in the health aspect making it highly unclear as they embraced the sexual morality as a topic, completely derailing the health campaign. This is very sad coming from many religious leaders who should be, instead, using their congregation bodies as platforms to educate people about HIV prevention! With this type of resistance to education, is not to scare you Kenya ranked fourth prevalecência of HIV in 2014.
While social media Kenya resented with respect to the announcement saying it aired in the early evening when most families was watching TV with their children, and that the ad was inappropriate for children under 10 years old I believe that the intention of the ministry was to give families the opportunity to discuss the importance of prevention at the household level. It is vital that this begins to happen especially when Reports indicate that married people as the highest percentage of HIV prevalence in Kenya.
Condom use in Kenya
As I listened to the arguments and the condemnation of educational ad I could not help but notice that the significant message of HIV announcement was being crushed at the expense of sexual morality that religious sects were preaching in their respective platforms.
The goal of the Ministry of Public Health was handling issues related to HIV prevention in Kenya and the cleric should not have called it with moral issues because ultimately they distorted the message about health. If the cleric had not interfered in the matter, the message would have reached millions of Kenyans and would have benefited even young people and people living with HIV.
If you are married or not, use condoms in Kenya is a challenge for most people because it carries the weight of stigma and many shy people stop buying in stores. Gladys (name has been changed) a married woman who admits to having had an affair told me that sometimes she and her lover choose to have unprotected sex for fear of stigma in one's community see them buy condoms. "With or without the announcement, thousands of married people have affairs and the cleric should not bury its head in the sand. They should join the government to promote the prevention campaign, "she said.
Looking solutions for education about HIV
A study conducted in Kisumu County in western part of Kenya revealed that infidelity is among the largest factors that could reverse the gains made on the prevention and management of HIV. With these findings it would defeat the understanding of anyone about why any leader, whether religious or otherwise, would oppose the education that can save Kenya to be among the countries leading HIV prevalence worldwide . With many homes having a TV or a radio, the message of prevention would have been spread effectively across the country. Even though the world focus on post-2015 development agenda which ensure healthy lives and reduce diseases such as HIV is a priority, there is a risk that such a level of denial and resistance to civic education will decrease but revert the gains made so far in dealing with HIV.
Peter Cherutich, director of the National AIDS Control Program and DST's said in an earlier interview with members of the press that he was shocked by the rigid opposition to the announcement at a time when Kenya was hoping to reduce new HIV infections. "The public is overreacting and I appeal for support and understanding of the religious leaders," he said.
But for now, with the removal of advertising, I am left to wonder if there are any best methods that will not face opposition. We need to find effective ways to educate and persuade people through our country about the importance of preventing HIV. If anyone has any bright ideas, I'm all ears!
I am a journalist online and print media located in Nairobi, Kenya. I am a passionate writer for writing about health and I have been writing there 15 years. My best stories are in reproductive and sexual health and HIV.
Any resemblance to the Brazilian scenario is not entirely coincidental. It is always the religious driving entire populations towards the epidemics in the name of morality that they preach and do not practice
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