The New Times (Kigali)

13 November 2012

Rwanda: Who Is Still Having Unprotected Sex in This Day and Age?

Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN
A sex worker (file photo).

opinion

"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".

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