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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Safe sex in Kenya taxis
Matatus carry about 10,000 commuters a day in Kenya
By Noel Mwakugu in Mombasa

Kenya's minibus taxis are fast, colourful and often dangerous.

Poster on Mobasa matatu warns of the dangers of irresponsible sex
Poster warns of the dangers of irresponsible sex

Decorated with pictures of music idols and sports stars, the so-called matatus also carry less than encouraging slogans.

"Day-Time Lover", reads one, while another welcomes passengers to "The Ticket to Hell".

But a new sticker campaign is using matatus to carry quite a different message, the fight against Aids.

The Belgium-based International Centre for Reproductive Health has just started an aggressive initiative to educate Kenyans about safe sex.

Decorative message

The organisation has published stickers which now serve as the main decorations on the matatus.

The campaign is also backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).

Matatu operators have welcomed the project and say they are optimistic they will spread the safe sex message to the 10,000 commuters who board their vehicles each day.

Despite many anti-Aids campaigns, Kenyans are still divided on how the pandemic will be ultimately tamed.

Mainstream religious leaders are opposed to the distribution of condoms, which they insist promote casual sex, the main source of HIV infection.

The government also recently announced that it is to stop distributing free condoms to young people in a move aimed at "cleansing" its policies.

Confused response

A recent survey on HIV/Aids revealed that many Kenyans have not changed their sexual behaviour, despite the fact that the disease is killing up to 600 people a day in the country.

In an independent poll commissioned by Kenya's leading media organisations over 55% said they thought condoms encouraged immorality.

The survey was carried out among 3,000 Kenyans across the country.

91% of those surveyed said they had heard of the disease, but 12% of them said it had not made them change their sexual behaviour.

Overall the survey revealed that although most Kenyans know about the disease which is devastating their country, they are confused about how to respond to it.

The BBC's Noel Mwakugu
"People here are still divided on how this pandemic will be ultimately tamed"
See also:

25 Jun 01 | Americas
UN opens landmark Aids debate
02 Jul 01 | Africa
Kenya ponders HIV hanging call
19 Apr 01 | Health
Aids epidemic 'underestimated'
25 Jun 01 | Africa
Kenya accused over Aids orphans
23 Apr 01 | Africa
Aids tests Kenyans' faith
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