Kenyan Taxis to Carry HIV Prevention MessagesKenyan matatus, minibus taxis that are often covered with pictures of "music idols and sports stars," will now feature HIV prevention slogans, BBC News reports. The stickers are part of an "aggressive initiative" sponsored by the Belgium-based International Center for Reproductive Health and the U.S. Agency for International Development to educate Kenyans about HIV and safe sex. About 10,000 people a day use the matatus and many more in Kenya -- where up to 600 people die each day of AIDS-related causes -- will see the stickers. Matatu drivers said they "welcomed" the initiative and are "optimistic" about its chances for success.
The campaign comes at a time when the traditional HIV prevention effort of condom distribution is facing opposition. Most "[m]ainstream" religious leaders have spoken out against condom distribution, saying it "promote[s] casual sex," the country's leading HIV transmission route, and the government recently announced plans to halt its condom distribution effort in an attempt to "cleans[e]" its policies. An independent poll of 3,000 Kenyans found that more than 55% thought condoms "encouraged immorality." While 91% of those surveyed said they had heard of HIV/AIDS, 12% indicated that they had not altered their sexual practices because of the disease. According to BBC News, the poll demonstrated that although most Kenyans are aware of HIV/AIDS, "they are confused about how to respond to it" (Mwakugu, BBC News, 10/22).