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Kenya: No time to "chill" for abstinence campaign


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

NAIROBI, 15 September (PLUSNEWS) - A huge media campaign has been urging young Kenyans to 'chill' - or abstain from sex - in a bid to curb HIV transmission.

'Nime Chill' - Swahili-English slang meaning 'I have chilled' or 'I am abstaining' - seeks to reduce peer pressure among urban youths aged between 10 and 15 to have sex early. The campaign has used media personalities and politicians to promote abstinence, and even President Mwai Kibaki has been photographed giving the two-fingered 'V' Nime Chill salute.

"The campaign aims to create an environment where abstinence is seen as a viable choice for youths. It destigmatises the topic and gets youths to discuss the subject," explained Lucy Mikweki, behaviour change communication programme manager for Population Services International (PSI), a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) involved in family planning and one of the campaign partners.

The programme, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, began in September 2004 and the first phase is drawing to a close.

One Nime Chill advert features several youths leaning out of a minibus taxi, with the captions reading: "Sex? No way, tume chill [we're chilling]," and "We won't be taken for a ride. Ni poa kuchill [it's cool to chill]."

At a government-run high school in the capital, Nairobi, several students told PlusNews they had heard of the campaign through television, radio and billboard advertising, but did not fully understand what it meant.

"Nime Chill means to abstain, and if you can't abstain, use condoms," said Eunist Mumo, one of the students. While it may have reduced peer pressure from friends, the young people said they still felt the pressure from commercial adverts and the internet.

They had been receiving sex education since the age of 10 and Mumo said it had "become like a song to us now, it's common to everyone and not embarrassing".

But an overload of sex education could have mixed results. "It makes us want to know what it [sex] is, we want to experience it," said Nelson Lomolo.

"Youths enjoy sex - they enjoy it more than anything - and being told to abstain only reduces the number of times we have sex," added Mumo.

PSI, in an evaluation of the campaign, found no evidence that Nime chill "had a direct effect" on young people remaining abstinent, but nevertheless concluded that the campaign merited continuation, in the hope that "early persuasion efforts will have an impact on subsequent behaviour".

In an extension the popular campaign, PSI now plans to implement a 'Chill Clubs' programme in 250 primary schools in five Kenyan districts to improve confidence and self-esteem among pre-teens, and address barriers to delayed sexual debut.


Copyright © 2006 -Integrated Regional Information Network, Publisher. All rights reserved to Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) . Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Integrated Regional Information Network.

Information in this article was accurate in September 15, 2006. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.