BURUNDI: Campaign gives drivers a licence to have safe sex

Photo: Judith Basutama/IRIN
Mini-bus passengers study the "licence to trust" cards
BUJUMBURA, 16 May 2008 (PlusNews) - A new HIV prevention campaign targeting drivers of commercial vehicles and their passengers is causing a stir in Burundi, with some locals praising it as a much-needed tool in the fight against HIV, while others are branding it crude and out of step with the country's culture.

In a two-day campaign this week in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, Menya Media, a non-profit social marketing organisation, distributed yellow cards, named "permis de confiance", or "licence to trust", to drivers at bus stations, fuel stations and bars. Commercial drivers are considered to be at higher risk of HIV infection than the general population.

Menya Media's Yvette Ihorimbere, who organised the campaign, said the licence-to-trust cards were also designed to reach the people that drivers frequently interact with, such as passengers, the staff at fuel stations and commercial sex workers.

The card resembles a Burundian driver's licence, but instead of written instructions for the owner of the card there are messages on the modes of HIV transmission and using condoms for prevention. The space where the driver's photo would normally be holds a condom.

"Giving a message to a driver, using a communication tool he is familiar with, attracts his attention and raises his interest," said Ihorimbere. The cards are printed in Kirundi (the national language), and Kiswahili, also commonly used by drivers and conductors in Burundi.

"It is a very good initiative to educate people," said Innocent Ngenzi, a taxi driver in Bujumbura, adding that once he had read his card he passed it on to a passenger who asked for it.

Another driver who requested anonymity was shocked by what he called the "crude language" used on the card. Traditionally, talking about sex in public is taboo in Burundi.

Although Menya Media distributed the cards free of charge, they were soon being sold for 200 Burundian francs (US$0.17) on the streets of Bujumbura. Ihorimbere said she did not condone the sale of the cards, but it demonstrated that people had recognised their value.

The concept of the "licence to trust" campaign was inspired by the successful "permis de séduire", or "licence to seduce" HIV-prevention campaign, used in Belgium in 2002. 


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

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

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