Rural Women Attaining Safe Sex Negotiation Skills

Asunta Wagura is the executive director of the Kenya Network of Women with AIDS

Nairobi, September 27th 2011, By Gitonga Njeru – A growing number of Kenyan rural women are increasingly attaining safe sex negotiation skills with their sex partners. Several nongovernmental organizations are empowering the women with new skills to negotiate through community trainings.

Among the organizations that are spearheading the campaign is the Kenya Network of Women Living with AIDS (KENWA).

Asunta Wangura, the executive director of KENWA says that efforts are paying off. Her HIV+ status has encouraged her to help other women. For more than twenty years, she has lived positively with the disease.
“Women contribute to more than 65 percent of all HIV infections in Kenya. Many are raped,

Writer - Gitonga Njeru

or fear to ask their husbands to use a condom for fear of being beaten. We also teach women to negotiate the importance of condom use.

“We do this through community training levels, seminars, workshops and public meetings. The results are bearing fruit,” says Wangura.

She explains that when a woman is HIV positive, she undergoes a lot of pain, rejection by relatives and friends as well as discrimination.

Now with their newly acquired negotiation skills, she confirms that over 40,000 in Western women in Western Kenya are now using condoms with their husbands and sexual partners when having sex.

“We teach the women good skills such as how to negotiate with their husbands for safe sex. When negotiation fails we teach them other rights they have according to the constitution. They have a right based on their health to with hold sex from their husbands.

“It is a surprise that many now are learning how to handle challenging situations like these ones. Traditionally, women have always had to give in to their men, but we are now seeing a shift in such beliefs,” said Wangura.

Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairlady Rukia Subow shares the same sentiments with Wangura. Heading the largest women group organization in East Africa, they are doing similar initiatives like KENWA.

“Empowering women especially in times of very high HIV infection is very high. The latest health surveys on HIV infection show that it is very high among married couples at 44 percent. We as an organization want these figures to go down.

If you notice of the 44 percent infection rate, most are discordant couples, and most are also women,’ said Subow.

She says that this campaign will go beyond Kenya and spread to other African countries. She says that the organization is not just educating women but also the men on the importance of safe sex with their wives.

“Educating men is very vital since they play a big part in HIV infections and our awareness programs seem to be working well. We also educate them to avoid such matters such as wife inheritance (A culture of a man marrying off his dead brother’s wife). The practice is still
very ripe in Western Kenya,” said Subow.

Salome Wanjiru 72, originally from Central Province now lives in Western Kenya. She tested HIV positive more than four years ago. Her husband is HIV negative but they both practice safe sex. Despite her advanced age, she is sexually active.

“I tested positive through a blood transfusion when nursing my then sick daughter who eventually died of AIDS related complications. I currently take care of several of her children since my child’s husband also died a few years ago.

“I am happy with the new arrangement and I will pass on the knowledge to my grandchildren,” said Wanjiru.

Some women are HIV negative while others are positive but the main motive of these organizations is to empower the women to negotiate safe sex with their husbands or partners. Others encourage the women to move out of the household for them to avoid infection or re-infection.

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