Thursday, November 09, 2006

Who wants to be called a makhwapheni?

In this crazy world of trying to save us all from an uber-minuscule virus, HIV, one of the most controversial topics is Prevention Messaging.

Surely as an epidemic ravages East and Southern Africa we should just be plain blunt. Hit people with scary images, with sickening facts, what type of practices are really driving this virus wider. We don’t have time to pussyfoot around. Surely?

In horror to other more diplomatic doctors, development workers, and public health employees this region has witnessed a great deal of irresponsible messaging, hard-hitting campaigns, or some completely obscure attempts to appeal to the youth’s hormones. (HA! Good luck on the last one. If you could solve that, parents’ of teenagers the world round would sanctify you).

Yes, teenage pregnancy and HIV infection are linked, but in the way that both indicate that unprotected sex took place. It does not mean that a pregnant teenage girl is HIV+, or an HIV+ teenage girl has a coupla kids stashed at home with grandma. It also does not indicate why unprotected sex took place. You are one lucky person in this region if you have full control over every aspect of your sex life.

A single billboard along a highway or a 30 second radio ad does not convey the complexity of such situations. The more diplomatic Prevention advocates do believe that it rather elevates stigma, fear, simplifying a chaotic situation, and drives the disease back towards thriving in the Silence.

But there can be situations of too much diplomacy. Talk Talk Talk. Where the hell is the action?! People can twist themselves into knots with all their expensive meetings and debates and consultancies on just how to tell a kid how to survive uninfected till his thirties. Messages become bland, vague, unfocused and easily ignored.

With that in mind, read the following article from the Washington Post - Makhwapheni Uyabulala – Your Secret Lover can kill you.... In Swaziland, 'Secret Lovers' Confronted in Fight Against AIDS

This ad campaign appeared in July and shook the tiny Swazi nation. There was national debate and rethinking of sexual practices. People became enticed to advocate, “Say No to Multiple Sex Partners!" while others angrily shouted that this was moralising the issue, that people have a choice to have as many sex partners as they wanted, rather explain how to keep such practices safe.

There has been a long-standing consensus among anti-AIDS groups that educational messages should inspire hope rather than fear. Blunt simplified messaging often leads to “blame”. But perhaps some blaming and finger pointing does need to start? When women are becoming infected when they have only ever had sex with their husband, maybe then the husband needs to be blamed & face the consequences? Or vice versa if she was the unfaithful partner.

This campaign was a “desperate bid to force Swazis to take responsibility for protecting themselves, and their loved ones, from AIDS”. Is some ownership of one’s reality and responsibility not what is needed in the solution???

HIV+ activists cried that they felt insulted and undermined by this accusation. It blames the victims of the disease. And we need to realise that all of us who are of the age to have sex are vulnerable to the disease and so potential victims.

Eventually the campaign was toned down. But “the word makhwapheni (Secret Lover) was not so easily erased from the minds of Swazis. All over the country, it continued to dominate conversations. When cellphones buzzed with the arrival of text messages, some would joke, "Is that your makhwapheni?" ….children of women with HIV began asking their mothers, "Do you have a makhwapheni?" ….a few families [were prompted] to banish relatives who were open about having HIV…It was saying, women are prostitutes, women are the ones bringing HIV”.

But it made a difference - “Among Swazis surveyed, 86 percent had heard of the campaign, and despite the controversy, 91 percent agreed with its message warning against the dangers of multiple sexual partners, and 78 percent said it made them consider changing their own sexual behavior.”

Or did it make a difference? Or have people just realized what needs to be answered when such surveys are conducted? (The same way a group of KZN youths once admitted to a South African woman that they knew when ‘the Americans’ came around asking questions about sexual practice they adamantly claimed to practicing abstinence, which apparently was often a blatant lie.)

“But one man it did affect was Ndlangamandla, the newspaper editor…Years of watching Swazis die, including several friends, did not force him to accept that his fondness for girlfriends endangered him and his wife, and ran the risk of making their two children orphans. The makhwapheni campaign -- and especially the conversations it provoked -- did…. “I will be at the bar," Ndlangamandla said, "but you'll never find me with another woman. I'm scared”.”

So, my dear blog reader, are you going to banish the makhwapheni’s from your life? Are you going to stop having (un)intentional unfaithful moments in your life? Are you going to cut down your sex life to a single person? Or can you honestly claim that this has never or will never apply to you….or your partner.


Anonymous said...

interesting read champs. i think any african aids campaigns would have to be hard-hitting to get a response. the conservative activists might complain but the truth is aids kills and not enough campaigns take that fact seriously and as a ersult go largely ignored.

PS. you really want honest answers to that last bit?

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - I think I am on more of the conservative activist side of this debate. But it still has me wondering alot about all the points. And just twisting my own mind into knots over it.

What needs to stop happening is the reasons that research finds of why things are the way they are, being used as excuses by people to act irresponsibly.

Considering I am FASCINATED by this subject, yes, give me some honest answers. And the question did involve future actions as well, and I don't believe any one of us can know our future actions, no matter what principles we hold today.

Peas on Toast said...

I think AIDS campaign should have shock value. They lack shock value, to scare the living shit out of people to start using protection.
Remember that crack campaign in the UK? The one of the 40-year mother who started smoking it? And what she looked like after a few weeks?

That's what we need here. Cos everything else seems to wash over. That's my two cents anyway.

ChewTheCud said...

hmmm - secret lover - nope never, wouldn't be able to do that, just not me. As to wether or not i've been cheated on it is unlikely given the low number of conquests to my name and psycho precautions - i might talk a big game but i don't play :) (cathartic - i dunno - but now you do)

Champagne Heathen said...

Peas - I don't know of that Crack campaign. I would be fascinated to read up on it though.

Shock tactics can be argued to then desensitise the public to the issue. Also, they tried shock tactics of many of us in schools about the drug issue...yet, so many people still denied it and carried on to coke and herroine, liquid meth etc.....and here goes my mind twisting itself in knots again, so now I will stop.

Thanks for your 2c...please feel free to drop your change here anytime!

Chews - thanks for sharing. I also don't think those who do have secret lovers originally believed that they would. So be careful and be aware....dunananaaaa....

Revolving Credit said...

'Your Penis is a weapon, you can kill someone with it.'

'Don't kill the ones you love'

Anonymous said...

i've never had nor intend ever having a makhwapheni. Also, cutting down on sex implies that you're having it ;)

That was a fascinating blog entry and associated article, Champs.

I wish more Africans took heed of the campaigns, because stopping the spread of AIDS requires a combination of reducing risk, protection and open conversation.

Those that choose abstinance will do so on their own accord, not because a campaign appealed to them. (IMO)

Anonymous said...

I'm not gonna lie to champers ;) Just having one lover right now would be cool with me - secret ones are bad karma.

Champagne Heathen said...

Rev - I like the 1st one, but the 2nd one might be too much for me.

O-D - I agree with you. Sometimes the risk reduction is out of people's hands, and that is what the Development world tries to address & change asap, without creating problematic side effects. It's tricky.
Abstinence def. is your own choice. And the problem with getting caught up in the spirit of only a campaign, means that the person might not have the motivation to keep up with their 'vow' afterwards. They then might have sex, but be scared to admit, and so spread it without knowing to others in the future - be it a wife, or a Secret Lover (secret now because of the vow s/he holds). Am I making sense? Trying to type alot in as few words as possible.

Chews - wish we all believed in karma though!

Revolving Credit said...

Champs they're not meant to be seperate, that's one ad.

Champagne Heathen said...

Oh. Is that the whole ad? What about the concluding recommendations of how not to kill the ones you love?

Anonymous said...

I'm all for monogamy. An HIV researcher once told me that white South Africans think they're so safe, yet one just has to look at the incidence of extra marital affairs to understand that there's potentially a problem here too. It unfortunately becomes an issue of trust. You can get your partner tested, but how do you know that they're not messing around behind your back? Does this mean that we should ALWAYS use condoms for here onwards?
I had a "little scare" at the beginning of the year - it stopped me from sleeping around at all and made me decide that abstinence or having sex in a monogamous relationship where you know your partner's status was really the only route in the end. That's a personal choice.
It's very hard to speak to young people - I remember feeling as though I was immortal and that nothing could touch me. Perhaps that's part of the problem here too.
At the end of it all, it's about self respect and taking responsibility for yourself - perhaps those kinds of messages should be preached instead.

Champagne Heathen said...

Jam - yes, that is raising it to the next level of debate.

Prevention is not as simple as the A-B-C theory most often punted. It is too dependent on too many outside factors.

As someone recently said, a single woman is more empowered in her sexual choices than that of a married/ involved woman. Us single chicks are more able to demand condoms or that no sex happens.

I am not a supporter of the A-B-C approach, for such reasons. It needs to be part of a much bigger Prevention programme. Our country IS of this understanding - that children need to be taught from an early age to understand their personal values and how to enforce&maintain them, as well as having self-respect and respect for others.

This is done through Life-Orientation classes. They start "conceptual" and basic with the young kids and eventually lead to understanding these concepts from a sexual (& drug etc) angle, by the time they are teenagers.

This is at least in the theory. Debatable whether such messages & lessons are really happening at grassroots level! Time will show...

ChewTheCud said...

I always thought the love-life ads were pushing the fact that sex is cool as long as you wear a condom - that is a good message but its the wrong one. Kids are not being taught proper morals by that.

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - it is not up to many organisation to teach kids morals. They should be/ are learning them from their families, communities, cultural institutions. One has to be careful about this, especially when it comes to sex.

The main objective is to keep sex as healthy in the person's mind as possible. Because, bluddy hell, it is our most basic instinct!

loveLife thought that kids are so into brands that they could make AIDS Awareness/ Prevention into a brand. So yes, what is argued against them is that they eventually just ended up glamourising sex, without enough teaching of Life Skills and Prevention methods.

They have been severely rapped over the knuckles for their messaging. On numerous occasions. Their most recent radio ads finally seem decent - to me at least.

Revolving Credit said...

Cherry flavoured condoms anyone?

Champagne Heathen said...

I hate the taste of cherries!

Revolving Credit said...

So what do you like the taste of?

After today banter on Peas's blog, I think I should call the book 'The Cherry Stalker'

It can be misconstrued on so many levels, it's just great.

ChewTheCud said...

hahahaha - cherries? I like them when they atop a roast ham - that slightly burnt, crunchy, chewiness of roast cherries ;)

Revolving Credit said...

Ja, Chewbacka, I'm sure you'll love to stick some cherry on top of your meat!!!

Champagne Heathen said...

Chocolate. I love chocolate. Or coffee. But then it must be 1st thing in the morning. Or pineapple. Champagne. Hmmm...maybe I should approach those pronto guys about making a "Banquet Pack"!

HA HA - LOVE the title, except people might mistake it for that famous Cherry blog.

Chews - you still trying to intice me through my stomach?? (ref to Koekie's blog today) And then hope the night goes downhill from there??

Daedalus said...

I think I'll keep on *lurking* for now.

Champagne Heathen said...

Daed - lurk away. Are you lurking at a bar counter by chance? Are you hoping to be noticed lurking at that bar counter by chance?

Or are you just worried about speaking up cause of where your foot might land up!?!

ChewTheCud said...

Nachtmusik - the best invention ever - chocolate liquer!!! But I was just talking bout cherries - you are free to draw your own conclusions ;P

Rev - I think you lost me on that last post man - I'm either thinking to dirty or not dirty enough.

Revolving Credit said...

Champs, practice the cherry techniques using some of those Ferraro Roche chocolates.

Forget chewy's cooking, get him to bake you a chocolate cake.

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - obviously you are thinking too dirty. It is quite quite clean. Well, less clean than classical.

Rev - the cake would get in the way. Maybe choc mousse. Ok....after that completely unsubtle, unwitty comment of mine I def. should end this convo and these thoughts...I am now off to yoga where the instructor is cute but looks like, in all his orange robes, he is fully into abstaining. Or maybe into tantric....hmmmm....ooooo....gotta go!

Daedalus said...

Um… a bit of both I think.
As for the "foot" thing… yeah.
Um… the "bar thing"… *payday* is still far off… so I am lurking at my TV tonight LOL

Revolving Credit said...

Chewy, it's me, so think as twisted and dirty as you can.


Champagne Heathen said...

Augh. Forget payday. You don't have to pay for it! No wait....easy not cheap easy not cheap easy not cheap.

Rev, this is part of your job description so...will you sort out the logistics. I gotta get warmed up.

Daedalus said...

Hahahhaa ... I think I am going for that smoke now.

Revolving Credit said...

Am I sending money or drinks?

Daedalus said...

Hahahah!! ... Rev, you crack me up some days. ;)

So, you are Champ’s PA then…
How’s her diary after the 20th?

Revolving Credit said...

I prefer to think of myself more as ' Die Skakel Beampte'

Let me check though, 20th fairly busy, got an important yoga lesson.
They're teaching her to stick both her legs behind her head.
I think it's called the 'Shagging Pretzel position'

Videos of this lesson will be on-sale on the 21st.

Wed 23rd is free after 6:00pm
Shall I pencil you in??

Daedalus said...

Rev, nah.. I am filled up on that day... ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to answer your last question..

But, I agree that AIDS marketing , I mean anti-AIDS marketing, g@d you know what I mean..needs to be much harder hitting. Something like the Aussies did with drinkdriving. "Drink, Drive, You Bloody Idiot".

On another note..A day late to get to your & Peas blogs , things being a bit slow in the ECape, but there must have been some serious aphrodisiac in the Jozi smog yesterday judging by your two cherry flavoured comment threads. What did I miss?

Champagne Heathen said...

ATW - I also get mixed up saying I'm an HIV, wait, anti-HIV worker...hmmm, doesn't work either really....I do work to try to eradicate HIV from the region...never quite know how to term it!

Speaking about Drinking & Driving, did you hear about the Appeal Court case to allow the state to take your vehicle if you are caught DUI!?! Hectic. Now THAT is 1 good deterent!

I am a single chick...I live in aphrodisiacally air - whether I score often or don't for awhile. That's the joy/bane of being single. Peas is just on some insane suicidal experiment. A really painful version of S&M almost.

Rev - thanks for the work!! YOur pay cheque is in the post. No commission though as nothing was finalised to my satisfaction.

Revolving Credit said...


So if I was pimp would that make me a commissionary?

Champagne Heathen said...

Depends on the terms of the prior agreement. If he wants it normal and classical, then yes, you will be a commissionary.

If he wants it a little more off kilter, then a 'comdoggystyle'.

And even more so, then a 'comsnm'.

Daedalus said...

“normal and classical”? Errr… elaborate.

Champagne Heathen said...

Sure. But talking like that will cost you. Speak to my 'com'municator, Rev, first.

Daedalus said...

Highly impractical solution.
Last time I checked Revo is in Cape Town, so in effect we will send messages all the way to CT only to return them to the destination in JHB…
Kinda via via way.

Champagne Heathen said...

Not EVERY message needs to be sent via via Rev. That would really kill a mood. But just the logistics of talking for how long, what kinda talk etc. The middleman exists for a reason. Mainly that I am too much of a sucker to be a good business person.

I mean...uh...I am too NAIVE to be a good business person. Whew. Nearly gave you freebie talk there!

Daedalus said...

Hehehe ... Errr.
"freebie talk"?
[Daedalus raises 1 eyebrow]

Champagne Heathen said...

HA! I cannot be tricked so easily. Just hand over your credit card details before I say another word...

(Where the hell is the middleman anyway!?!? It's Friday afternoon forgodsakes, this is HIS time!)

Daedalus said...

Credit Card..? Thud.