KENYA: When there's no excuse not to use a condom

Photo: IRIN
Young men and women have adopted the condom as a routine part of their sexual relationships.
Nairobi, 15 April 2008 (PlusNews) - When the music's pumping, drinks are flowing and hormones are raging, condoms don't often spring to mind, until it's too late. By then, the shops are closed and a packet of three is hard to come by.

That's where enterprising vendors outside the busy bars and nightclubs in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, turn lifesavers. Steve Kielu, a street trader with a spot outside The Wallet, a club in downtown Nairobi, has added condoms to the usual cigarettes, chewing gum, batteries and assorted handy items.

"Some people come around and pretend - they first buy sweets and then a while later they ask if I have any condoms as well," he said. "This is how I came to stock condoms."

"I target both men and women, but men are my customers more often than women. I know that I have helped them instead of them going away without," Kielu told IRIN/PlusNews.

Psys, another popular club in the Nairobi suburb of Lang'ata, keeps condoms behind the bar. "This is a highly social place where two consenting adults will walk in together, or meet, and chemistry is all over the place," said Martin, a Psys bartender.

"We have a variety of condoms on display for sale. As much as it is important to carry condoms around, not everyone carries condoms in their wallets or handbags, so usually you will find them at our counter," he added. "What is worse, contracting HIV or the embarrassment of asking for a condom over the counter?"

Various NGOs are also working to make condoms more accessible. "What we encourage is the availability of condoms in high-risk areas, such as the highway bars, lodgings, casinos and clubs," said Chris Wainaina, brand manager of "Trust" condoms at Population Services International (PSI), a global non-profit social marketing organisation.

Wainaina said PSI was conducting training sessions for bar owners, club bartenders and hotel lobby staff to make condoms more widely available and help them deal with requests for condoms sensitively.

"Condoms are even being sold by taxi drivers at night to their clientele. They work very late at night and are parked strategically in high-risk areas," he noted.

''I just don't want to wake up in the morning and have to worry about what I should have done''
Jude Musyoka* a student at the United States International University in Nairobi, appreciates the convenience of it all. "Usually I carry my own stash [of condoms], but the problem is you don't always plan these things, so when you have met a nice girl outside school, the bartender or the street vendor will always come in handy," he said. "I just don't want to wake up in the morning and have to worry about what I should have done."

A cultural shift

Young men and women in the capital seem to have adopted the condom as a routine part of their sexual relationships, at least in the early stages.

A 2007 study by Infotrak Research & Consulting, in conjunction with a local magazine for young women, Eve Girl, found that 54 percent of young women used condoms "persistently", while only 24 percent never used them.

Anthony Omondi*, a young Nairobi executive, attributed the condom's growing popularity among urban youth to the influence of Western culture, and the publicity the prophylactic has received in recent years.

"Kids are taught about condoms in school, there are billboards all over town with famous people promoting them, ads on TV, so they are now very acceptable ... in fact, they're cool," he added. "And since you can get them everywhere and they are either free or very cheap, there is no excuse not to use one."

According to the National AIDS Control Council, Kenyans use an estimated 120 million condoms every year, but this does not include purchased condoms. A three-pack of condoms costs, on average, about 10 Kenyan shillings [US$0.16].


Theme (s): Gender - PlusNews, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Media - PlusNews, Prevention - PlusNews, Youth - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Young sex workers stand outside a bar, March 2007
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