Men and safe sex
Even if condoms are now more widely referred to and also used, in particular in the urban contexts, interviews also clearly demonstrate that when a man has had intercourse with a new partner a few times, that person is no longer a stranger, and condom use is stopped. It is a well-known fact that it is extremely difficult— not to say almost impossible—for women (married women in particular) to ne-
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gotiate safe sex measures—even if women in many cases have the upper hand in the household. Women interviewed would all agree that to ask the husband to use a condom—when they know that he has been with other partners—would be to disclose their disrespect too openly. It was well-known that many nyamba ndogos gave comfort to more than one man because the financial assistance from one man was not enough to support the household. However, as relations with these ‘outside’ partners were considered permanent, condom use was not an issue. Besides, common arguments from both nyamba ndogos as well as ‘wives’ were that if they insisted on condom use, their partner/husband would be suspicious and then have a reason to accuse them of not being faithful. Thus, even if women have become much more self-confident and even independent, in sexual matters most women interviewed were not in a position to negotiate safe sex.
Risk assessment as regards contracting a STD or HIV infection is low by the men interviewed. “You never know if you will be run over by a matatu/dala dala (local bus in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively) to-morrow”, men would argue, “Why should this prevent me from walking in the street?” A general attitude by men interviewed—who admitted having several partners at the same time, and who were well aware of the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS—was “why should it hit me?” Other reasons given were that “condoms hurt a man’s ego”; “semen is valuable and should not be thrown away”. Recurrent rumours met over and over both in Kisii and Dar es Salaam were that condoms had been infected with HIV/ AIDS.