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Kenya: Unprotected sex with multiple partners widespread - survey

November 26, 2009
NAIROBI, 26 November 2009 (PlusNews) - Kenyan men and women are continuing to have unprotected sex with multiple partners - despite numerous national media campaigns to sensitise the public to the dangers of sex without a condom and multiple partners.

According to the preliminary findings of the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, only 32 percent of women and 37 percent of men who reported having multiple sexual partners said they used a condom during their last sexual encounter.

"One of the biggest reasons for lack of condom use amongst people engaged in multiple partnering is the belief that they know those partners well and can therefore engage in unprotected sex with them, which is a misplaced belief," said Lucy Maikweki, deputy director, HIV and communications, at the reproductive health NGO, Population Services International (PSI).

PSI and the government are running a national "Wacha mpango wa kando; epuka ukimwi" - Swahili for "Stop relationships on the side; avoid HIV" - campaign.

"People engage in multiple sexual relationships for various reasons; for most women for instance, it could be due to financial needs... most men do it for pleasure," she added.

Men are more likely to use condoms than women, with 62 percent of men and 35 percent of women who had sexual intercourse with a person who was not their husband, wife or cohabiting partner reporting using a condom in their last sexual intercourse.

"Women have little control over condom use in relationships and few are able to negotiate for safe sex, especially if they are relying on the man for financial support," Maikweki said. "Women are afraid to negotiate condom use as it might be seen as a sign of mistrust in the partner; however, younger women are more able to negotiate condom use than older women."

Men are twice as likely as women to engage in sex with non-marital, non-cohabiting partners; the results also showed that 9 percent of all men had had sex with two or more partners in the past 12 months, compared with only 1 percent of all women. The survey found that Kenyan men had an average of 6.3 lifetime sexual partners, compared with 2.7 for women.