16 February 2011

The Challenge of Campaigns: Kenya and Infidelity

PlusNews Global reports on the trouble with evaluating the current campaign in Kenya to stamp out infidelity. The 'Wacha Mpango Wa Kando: Epuka Ukimwi' [Swahili: "Let Go of Your Side Relationship: Escape HIV] campaign was everywhere when I was in Kenya a year ago. The advertisements were in the Daily Nation on a frequent basis. However, the Nation also featured what became a weekly favorite, 'My Dilemma.'

Each Thursday a dilemma would be featured with comments from readers. The general theme was around marriage. Either a person was married and having an affair or it was the unmarried person having an affair with a married (usually man) who makes promises to end his current marriage but never seems to do it. The responses often told of seeking God for answers and were downright funny as people would scold the individual for being foolish.
However, it appears that infidelity continues. What is interesting are responses like this:
"We do use a condom once in a while, but this is somebody who was my girlfriend so most of the time we just go without a condom. I believe it does no harm because she isn't a stranger to me."

"Those behaviour change adverts you are talking about - I have seen them, but adverts don't determine how I lead my life," he added.
The battle of personal decisions is very much similar to the one being waged in Kenya. Many people rightly want to be able to make their own choices. However, what if those choices have a negative impact on others? What is the role of society and/or government in this?

Campaigns like the one in Kenya seem to be needed, but have to be tooled to change the minds of people like the anonymous man quoted in the article. It certainly seems like time is needed, but it we cannot wait too long as,"married Kenyans are responsible for an estimated 44 percent of new infections annually."

Note: I contribute to PSI's Healthy Lives blog co-writing the Healthy Dose each morning.

Update: Amanda M has pointed out that the 44% stat might likely have come from this UNGASS report that said 44.1% of infections occur in people in relationships.  While significant in relation to infidelity, it is important to note that it is not only marriages.