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International News

Teaching Safe Sex, Ugandan-Style

November 3, 2003

Traditionally in Uganda, a senga, or paternal aunt, trained a young girl in all matters of love and marriage prior to her wedding night, said Phoebe Nakibuule Mukasa, a retired schoolteacher and local talk show expert in traditional romantic etiquette on Radio Simba. The "aunties" have become so popular recently that health officials and cultural leaders are trying to harness the old tradition as an AIDS awareness vehicle.

The idea is that if young adults will listen to sengas talk about erotic techniques and relationships, they may also listen to them teach HIV prevention and sex education.

Robert Ssebunnya, a Kampala businessman, won government funding for a plan to train a number of working sengas in the basics of AIDS prevention -- abstinence, fidelity and condom use -- who would pass on the lessons to youths in villages and schools. His plan also includes a "senga manual," which would offer guidelines on such topics as how boys and girls should behave at parties and guarding against premarital sex.

However, when Ssebunnya presented the idea recently at Makerere, Kampala's largest university, he was booed. AIDS education in Africa needs a more contemporary approach, the students argued.

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There is a widespread belief among Ugandans that modernity and moral decadence are to blame for social maladies such as AIDS, said Carolyn Nakazibwe, a 28-year-old journalist for the Monitor newspaper. "A lot of men believe we have a lot of HIV because women dress indecently, which is, of course, ridiculous." Still, reviving old cultural practices like virginity testing for young girls has become fashionable elsewhere in Africa in the age of AIDS.

But the Medical Research Council, an AIDS research organization in Uganda, recently found that using sengas to teach sex education to adolescent girls showed promising results. Brent Wolff, a behavioral scientist, said researchers deliberately did not tinker with any of the senga's traditional teachings.

Back to other news for November 3, 2003

Adapted from:
Boston Globe
10.28.03; Rachel Scheier



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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