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The Big Question: Why Do People Have Unsafe Sex?

Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2004

Since it was first diagnosed twenty years ago, AIDS has killed more than twenty million people worldwide. It's now the leading cause of death among adults under 60. An estimated forty million people are living with the virus. Most people contract it by having unprotected sex - the vast majority of them in Africa. But why are they putting themselves at risk? The Big Question: why do people have unsafe sex?

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A group of young people hold hands

Emma Joseph travels to Kenya, where one and a half million people have died of AIDS and where nearly one in ten people are HIV positive. She meets a group of young people to talk about their attitudes to sex, trust, and protection.

Emma Joseph with young Kenyans They belong to an organisation called Shades Classics, which works in Kibera, a huge slum on the outskirts of Nairobi and home to some of the poorest people in Kenya. Kibera also has one of the highest HIV and AIDS infection rates in the country.

Safe sex song & dance presentation in Kenya Israel Kodiaga from Shades Classics uses songs and sketches to educate people about the dangers of unprotected sex. Their message is simple: use a condom, be faithful or abstain from sex altogether.

Safe sex campaigner in Kenya So why do they think people have unsafe sex? They suggest peer pressure, abuse and poverty, as well as confusion and misinformation are all reasons people put themselves at risk. Cultural taboos and traditions also make it even harder for women to protect themselves. And, they tell Emma, it is not easy to talk frankly about sexual behaviour in Kenya -- there is no socially acceptable word for sex in Swahili.

You can discover more about the effect on AIDS in developing nations on OpenLearn's Being Positive website.

This edition of The Big Question was first broadcast on 10th July 2004

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