John Boke Mwikwabe is a peer educator in Naivasha, Kenya. This is the third blog post written by John. To read more about John, see What It’s Like to Be a Peer Educator, posted on March 18 and One Peer Educator’s Biggest Challenge, posted March 21.

When the campaign against HIV/AIDS started, all we heard was how abstinence would be the solution to not getting the infection. But the long discussed and argued question still remains: is there a single way to avoid being infected by HIV? What is the connection between an individual’s intention to heed good advice and their actual behavior? Do people know the consequences involved in various risky behaviors and end up indulging in them anyway?

Those are some of the questions that came to mind when we tested new activities from FHI on reducing multiple concurrent partnerships. The activities had been divided into seven sessions, all of which were dealing with two types of sexual relationships/partnerships: sequential and overlapping sexual relationships.

After almost two months working with these activities, here are some of the issues that came out of the discussions that we had:

  • As much as overlapping partnerships are riskier than sequential partnerships, youths still prefer them because they are interesting and “make life worth living.” They believe there is adventure in trying to conquer and have new relationships that are more interesting than the one they are in.
  • Sequential relationships are the best option. But after leaving (or being left by) a lover, it can be hard to wait a long time to start a new relationship, because you might be hurting and wanting to be with someone for emotional and psychological reasons.
  • Young women say they need different men in their lives to do different things for them, namely one for dating, one for financial support, one for one-night stands, and another as a full-time lover.
  • If you are in relationships with a lot of people at once, the chances of being hurt are slim because you have not fully invested feelings in only one person. Then, if a relationship with one of your lovers becomes stressful, it is much easier to leave and move on to another one on the list.
  • Youth feel that when one gets into a relationship with someone, they know them inside out. This leaves no space for new discoveries, and having the same routine over and over again sometimes becomes boring. One tends to want to have that feeling of first love and pursuit rekindled.
  • Young women say that since men will never be satisfied with one person, it’s only fair for women to also have someone else or other relationships on the side just to be safe in case the men leave them for “greener pastures.”

As you can imagine, the discussion was long and heated. Many youth were aware of all the risks involved but still had difficulty seeing themselves with just one partner. The most important thing they took away from the discussion was that if you will not be in just one relationship at a time, then you must have full knowledge about how to protect yourself from various risks that are involved with having an overlapping relationship.

The “use condoms” tune had to be sung again, as well as the need for testing and counseling. The good thing about the activities we tested is the fact that they do state exactly what is going on in our lives today. They bring something fresh to the table and can help equip youth with the knowledge and information needed for sound decision-making.