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Safe sex: who is responsible (2)

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By Yetunde Arebi
Hi, Sometime ago, we discussed the issue of safe sex practices. Some of the many questions we asked our respondents was whose responsibility it is to ensure safe sex, the man or the woman? Another was, what methods they adopt in ensuring safe sax?

The place of condoms; multiple sex partners, polygamy and even cultural practices in ensuring safe sex, the level of awareness among Nigerian about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other sexually transmitted diseases, among others. Several Nigerians expressed shock and dismay at the kind of responses some of our respondents gave. Today, we are bringing you some of the responses we received on the topic.

Feel free to add your voice to the discourse.  Our address remains: The Human Angle, Vanguard, P.M.B. 1007, Apapa, Lagos, or, e-mail Cheers!

Personal hygiene is very important to some men. The flash of dirty underwear can be all it takes to permanently douse a man’s fire.

May I submit finally, that the impression men perceive from women is that sex is evil and should not be discussed. Women should therefore, in the spirit of affirmative action, prove to us that they are flesh and blood. Spirituality without physical chemistry is pure deceit.

It is not a sin to have a spirit-filled woman who would also appeal to a man’s sexual sensibilities. Some religious men are often the culprits here, who in a bid to grandstand so sanctimoniously end up with broken homes or at best, live unhappily ever-after.
Thank you for having me.
Okey Ernest Opara

Dear Yetunde,
My heart bleeds when I read of the plausibility of little knowledge or hopefully not, the illusion of it that plaques health issues in Nigeria and my fear is that they may never end. The problem with terminologies is that once they are interpreted wrongly, then the risk of getting the whole concept misconstrued, the results are dire to say the least and already this is happening in a lot of African communities whose health seeking behaviour is generally poor.

Safe sex only refers to sexual practices that limit the risk of transmitting or acquiring an infectious disease via exchanges of semen, blood, and other bodily fluids, e.g., use of a condom, mutual masturbation, and avoidance of anal intercourse.

Their origin stems from preventative actions in gay communities in the early years of the epidemic and later became an effective prevention strategy that results in behavioural modifications which has reduced ‘generalised epidemics’. Again, generalised epidemics refer to HIV burden on groups such as gay men, youths, and women.

The reasons we seem to be failing in our efforts to reduce new HIV infections is ‘hydra- headed’ and at most times the easy way out is to ascribe a reason to it. But unfortunately, this only creates a backlash evidenced by a growing epidemic.

Current statistics will always give political expedient figures as a justification of huge resources expended on this epidemic in the country which is well above half a billion dollars from 2003.

I do believe that one measure of how successful our prevention programs have been is in fact the kind of comments which you have received, which to me mean that HIV communication to communities in Nigeria will certainly need strengthening.

Delivery of health promotion training in Nigeria has largely been group based as you mentioned, but individual and community training need to be increased.

Perhaps one reason for this may be because our University specialists are used to a stereotypical method of delivery which lies close to their original job description and unfortunately ‘we’ think that is the right tactic. Clearly, as in many situations we are in the ‘process’ and we will get there someday, the usual cynicism in modern day Nigeria.

There are many Nigerians who practice safe sex but I guess the challenge is the behavioural modification to using ‘garjets’ like condoms has been a subject of controversy. Employing abstinence may be religiously expedient but of course is largely impossible with human nature at every point in time no matter how ‘spirit-filled’ anyone may be.

Rev.  Mathew Coker once answered that just “because he is a priest does not mean he somehow has overrided his limbic system” in an interview with Charles Oputa’s zoomtime and I think we as a people need not be afraid of sex, but change the way we appreciate sex for our collective good.

Pupils in our schools should be taught extensively about relationships, allowed to express themselves and then be corrected by parents who have good parenting skills and not leave that skill to an ‘anointing’ by biological rights. I guess this too may be controversial with questions like “why do you want to corrupt our children?” An assumption that it is only this method corrupt practice is translated to the younger generation. A deadly phenomenon created in Africa’s geriatocratic societies that would rather enjoy at the expense of their young.

I am certain that when a church demands for biomedical records prior to marriage, then that church has diverted from its primary responsibility.

The question is: would the church offer treatment or care in any form to the couple if the test comes out positive? or would the church ask for other STI’s other than HIV as a measure to protect the proposed bride from a wayward husband?

The answer is, the church would rather propagate stigma and discrimination, creating and sustaining the dimension in this epidemic that is the most difficult tackling over the last 25years.

Again, I guess a knowledge gap has contributed to the debate about condom effectiveness in HIV Protection. The fact is that consistent and correct use of condom gives 80-85% protection against HIV as compared to 98% reliability.

This seeming dichotomy has cast doubt in the prevention intervention and reinforced a suspicion that health professionals use the epidemic as a money making venture.

Not withstanding, I am unaware of an ideal prevention method or maybe again, we have failed to explain to Nigerians that efficacy differs from effectiveness.

Our failures (Public health) have meant that great  challenges await the future in the wake of poor health financing across the three tiers of government. A perennial problem compounded by the misunderstanding of the definition of health especially as when we hear that word, we think it means hospital, doctors, nurses and pharmacist as though that is its meaning.

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