Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Condoms. Such a controversial issue wherever you go. But here? It's explosive (no pun initially intended, but at this point go wherever your dirty mind takes you). There are so many misconceptions, myths, closely held cultural beliefs and strong opinions about sex in general, HIV, and condoms. Many people, especially in the rural areas, have never even heard of or seen a condom before. Seriously! Convincing people that using condoms is a good idea and can even save their lives when their initial reaction is "you want me to put that where when I am doing what?" is challenging to say the least. During one HIV/AIDS sensitization with SPLA Commanders this Colonel, who could have been anywhere between 40 and 65 years old, picked up a condom, unwrapped it, examined it with squinted eyes like it was a new species of insect, unrolled it, held it up before him and proclaimed: "this is the first time I am seeing this in my whole life."

In my job I talk about sex and condoms and STDs and pregnancy every day. I have become completely impervious to the fact that most people find these topics to be not easily discussed in mixed company and have to constantly remind myself that herpes is not an appropriate happy hour topic. I carry condoms with me everywhere, because it is actually not a rare thing where my team and I are in a meeting with communities and they ask us for condoms.

At first our outreach workers would be chased out of markets for bringing up condoms. Now we can barely get enough stock to meet the demand. Even so, there are serious misconceptions and myths about sex, HIV and condoms in Southern Sudan. And now I present you with a list of the most common ones, in the order of most common, as compiled by our outreach workers and peer educators:

1. Condoms have holes so they do not really protect you
2. Condoms are only for unfaithful people
3. Mosquitoes transmit HIV
4. Condoms come off and get stuck inside a woman and can kill her and the man will be arrested
5. Condoms contain HIV which was put there by the whites to kill Africans
6. Condoms were introduced by Westerners to stop Africans from having more children so they can have more control
7. In order for a condom to work, you must use a male condom together with a female condom

Did you pick up that people here have a touch of conspiracy theorists in them?

1 comment:

M.Lane said...

Amazing. Every time I think I have had a hard day at work I just think of YOUR challenges!!