AIDSfree: Kenya’s Condom King and his mission to combat HIV taboos

Young Kenyans’ ignorance around sex is helping to fuel infection. One man thinks he may have found an answer


Kenyan pop star Tetu Shani, left, with ‘King of Condoms’, Stanley Ngara

Kenyan pop star Tetu Shani, left, with ‘King of Condoms’, Stanley Ngara ( Jan Husar )

When Stanley Ngara started teaching young Kenyans about safe sex he found many of those present too embarrassed to listen to his message on how they could avoid catching HIV.

Condoms were linked in their mind to prostitution. Having grown up in households where sex was a taboo subject, they could not face hearing him discuss its mechanisms in public. A new approach, he realised, was needed.

Rather than the strait-laced manner adopted by many sexual health trainers, humour was required. At first he tried using puppets, but that still failed to fully engage. That was when he adopted his brash new alter ego: Africa’s King of Condoms.

“In Africa people don’t talk about sex,” the 45-year-old explained. “They do not talk about condoms. There is so much stigma. But because of the way I now dress, people wonder who I am. They want to know more.” Kenya has the joint fourth largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 1.5 million Kenyans living with HIV. The first case was detected in 1984, and by the mid-90s it was one of the major causes of illness in the country, putting strain on the healthcare system and economy.

Since then the Kenyan government has improved the situation. New annual infections are now a third of what they were at the peak of the epidemic, and the authorities have spent heavily to ensure that those affected have access to the latest treatments to try to prevent transmission.

But despite these efforts, 53,000 are still being infected each year – and one of the greatest concerns is infection levels among young people. Surveys showed that 51 per cent of new infections were among those aged 15 to 24, a big jump from 29 per cent in 2013.

According to Africa’s King of Condoms this is why the young must be a focus of HIV prevention.

“I say to them that what your teacher did not tell you, what your father did not tell you, what your uncle did not tell you, the King of Condoms will tell you,” he said. “We have a big issue with ‘sponsoring’, where men have relationships with young girls half their age. The girls are happy to get money and presents like mobile phones in exchange for sex. But they also have a boyfriend their own age too; and that boyfriend will also be wanting an older woman – someone who is not being satisfied by their husband – to ‘sponsor’ them. It is a common situation, and it spreads HIV.” READ MORE


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