Is Abstinence and fidelity effective measure to curb HIV/AIDS & STI in Africa?

Statistics is fantastic when the right questions are asked.

Whenever I see a billboard either online or on the road preaching abstinence, I can’t help but wonder how effective this is given open talk about intimate issues isn’t one thing we are known to be forthright with on the continent.

An interesting article by the New York Times on US spending to push for abstinence and fidelity in many African countries as a way to curb epidemic of HIV/AIDS and STIs on the continent – the study has now been seen as failure because there is no significant difference between sexual attitude of people between the nations where funding is put aside specifically for this purpose and the ‘control’ nations.

The following statement from Mr Lo, the researcher who presented the findings sums up my curiosity about abstinence in Africa:

When answers about age at loss of virginity did not appear to be truthful, he said, he used a conservative form of adjustment, calculating backward from the birth of the first child.‘ 

Give for example, my cousin, Funmi who we grew up together, she got pregnant as a teenager. By the time she was 14 years old, her mother was in her 60s so she gets to do what she likes most of the time.

Around this time, her mother took in an Imam who was invited from out of town to teach Quran to Muslims children in my village. Let’s just say all went well and Funmi had a son – it was one of the biggest scandals in my village – she didn’t even know she was pregnant until well into her pregnancy.

Funmi’s son now is 27 years old – Given she is a deaconess’ daughter, and now a ‘born again’ adult herself, there is no way she will ever disclose she had a son at 14 as that would open a whole can of worms and uninvited judgemental remarks.

From growing up the only girl I remember whose puberty ‘curiosity’ didn’t end her schooling ambition was ‘Seyi’ – she too got pregnant in junior school 3, and like Funmi, she had no idea she was pregnant. Given my school was a Catholic single sex school, we were too ‘holy’ to allow her back into the school. Seyi’s father blamed it all on the mother for allowing her to hawk soft drinks to cocoa stores in the evening – Seyi’s boyfriend was a son of a cocoa merchant. Her mother, a school teacher took the baby girl from Seyi so she only missed just one term of school.

We graduated the same year and now her daughter now is an adult.

Seyi’s case was a success story because her mother stepped up to support.

Usually, it is abortion gone completely wrong or teenagers end up raising children they are not ready for – which means to say regardless of what we say, teenage girls and boys do indeed engage in sexual intimacy – you only know when there is unattended consequences.

While I seem to have learnt a lot from people around me, it was needless nightmare trying to sift through what the ‘deal’ was and dealing with my parents’ ‘paranoia.’

I believe educating children from early age of expectations, giving examples to what might happened under certain circumstances and inform about STIs and ways to avoid being a victim – is the best way to raise awareness on sexually transmitted infections.

And if for some reasons, something did happen, well, having non judgemental support system is the way forward.



Categories: Education, Nigeria, Women

Tags: , , , ,

21 replies

  1. Just yesterday I was thinking of how parents (Nigerian) portrays sex as a shameful act, but its all out in the open everybody seems to know about it but have less understanding.

    Away from that, engaging in sex education will go along a way in helping especially as much as abstinence is always the main aim of sex education I think Sex have been highly mystified too that even having grown up (so to say) by abstaining folks still find it a hard acknowledging sex as an integral part of marriage.

    Seyi was lucky to have a supporting mother.

    Presently in my community of residence I have been having a hard time greeting a woman, whom her daughter got pregnant at the age of 13 in junior secondary class 2 and is now a mother to a bouncing baby boy. What is appalling is that this is not the first time one of her daughters will be experiencing this, but she failed to learn as the first was sent out to come leave with her again, my problem with her now is how to meet her and counsel her on how the 13yr old girl will go back to school. The girl who was living with her husband (a motorcyclist) has been sent packing, she now lives with her parent who now fights anybody that calls her by name as opposed to her child’s name (iya Ayo).
    Who am I to go counsel this woman? She also became a mother at age 15, (so I was told) going to her will amount to (I don’t even know) but I will surely have to explain to her why am still not married being a 20+ woman and graduate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yoo da fun yin, Iyabadan! I so much appreciate tyou sharing this.

      See this sums it all “… less understanding.” – this is the reality.

      And from my experience, ‘the less understanding’ bits hit the ‘good girls’ a lot of the time which is a shame.

      Seyi was indeed lucky, because her family were educated and a bit financially okay than all of the pregnant girls that I knew of.
      Part of my mother’s worries was that she could not realistically house a teenage and her baby and if she had to, something had to give which in my family’s case would mean end to school. My father had eagle eyes but I thought he was funny given we were away during the week, wouldn’t it just be easier to be explicit to us – whatever they did worked though.

      See as for your neighbours – one thing my parents especially my father always say was that he would never allow ‘ilemosu’ – my older sister had the most earful. This is because there are a few examples in my village and town, and we just knew my mother would receive all the blame and she didnt deserve that

      Hopefully, your neighbour’ girls would see how empowering it is for a woman to seek knowledge when in doubt – we can only hope and do our bits otherwise you’d be called ‘busybody’ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Funny enough till age 10, when I hear that a Muslim or Christian cleric wife just put to bed, I begin to wonder why even clerics would have sex (a act that I had always believed to be shameful)

        As much as my mother won’t sit you down to discuss sex education, she keeps telling her daughters – empower yourself not to become a liability to your husband, you will have to complement each other, always remember that there is no room again for you in your father’s house once you sign a marriage certificate. He remember her always telling my younger that: if he impregnates a lady while still schooling (the lady in question will in her words *se ọmọ ọdọ ọlọ́ka pẹ*

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sex in Africa isn’t the old shy conservative topic any longer, believe me.
    Days gone by it was always the girls that were innocent victims when they got pregnant at young ages.

    I laughed myself to a belly-aching fit when I had a long chat with a bunch of late teenage/early twenties single guys recently. They all had stories to share of themselves & others their age, employing every defensive measure to avoid being wooed into early marriages by young early teen girls looking to get pregnant. That is the craze for lots of young girls from low income families now, and better believe it; They do know better but choose to ignore it.
    That is how these young girls adapt & exercise their right to choose from A, B or C.

    Feels like ‘B for Being faithful’ is winning on the black continent.
    ‘A for Abstinence’ was always doomed in Africa. Lets face it, Dogs will be Dogs when their Bitches livelihood reeks of them perpetually being on heat.
    C for Condom is indeed universally the last option

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear you Yas. See those guys you had a chat with, they were very open because they trusted you and perhaps knew you could give a tip or two.

      What really makes big impact is for parents to be able to have such open conversations with their children so the children could be free to ‘run’ home for help rather than taking the high road.

      You see the point about ‘low income families’ – this is where my concentration lies given 70% or so Nigerians fall in this category. Ideal family usually get this area covered if not at their ‘ideal schools’ it will be at home by parents.

      Even when I was younger in my very ‘holy’ secondary school, there we lots of girls doing what they liked to rebel and on the side were other girls who would not dare because mummy would ‘die’.

      Not sure if you heard this, there was an incidence at OAU campus last year where a lady had a baby in the toilet and attempted to flush the newborn – she probably have been preached to never to abort, at the same time scared to death to be seen at home – most of the youths just wanted to chill out but in need of education to learn about options available to them, just in case.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Also maybe the OAU girl couldn’t afford to abort…

        I may have complicated ‘Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask’ kind of opinion on gay rights but I am a die-hard advocate for free and available contraceptives and abortion…. under law.

        You are right about those lads wanting some advice & you might find the advice I dole out interesting.

        I tell them to very selective of the girls they date. I don’t waste my time preaching abstinence to those sorts. I jokingly start by telling them that unless they can afford Call-girls because they are truly the cleanest & most hygiene conscious sorts that would never get pregnant or care about trapping paupers like them & that most prostitutes prove to be ‘holier’ than most of the ‘decent’ girls they run around chasing. Then I seriously suggest they stick to the girls that also have a lot to lose by getting pregnant. Those sort you just described, usually in school & are ambitious, with role models to look up to in their families.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ha, I remember you mentioned one project interviewing some guys – see I found your opinion here invaluable given what you must have uncovered in the process.

          See, this is exactly my point re OAU lady – maybe she could afford abortion but have done one too many? While abortion should really be the choice of the lady, shouldn’t it be the last resort? In a place like ours where regulations is not properly enforced, you can bet many turn to abortion when really they could have ‘played’ it safe. So even the most heartless doctor would probably refused to do any form of abortion if having the same person coming too frequently.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I think that is very sad that in this day and age in Nigeria, that parents from low income families are bringing up their girls to throw themselves at the mercy of young men. Whatever happened to self-respect and independence. By throwing yourself at people you are less likely to be respected and have a happy and fulfilling marriage, what kind of life is that? This really does go right back to the home, the parents are responsible for perpetuating misery, by encouraging this defeatist attitude.

      Regarding the sex issue, just tell your kids about it and that they must be responsible for their actions. This is all kind of strange with all this ‘religion’ circulating in the midst. I think they must be very good at separating the two lust and ‘godly behaviour’. What a complex web we weave.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting topic you have there. It just reminded me about the talk I had with my nephew when he left for University a few weeks ago. I tried to be as candid as possible with him. I told him that
    1. he should abstain and concentrate on his education (if he can help it)
    2. if he decides to start having sex him and his partner should get tested
    3. if they both know their status then they can get it on BUT with protection

    I tried to tell him that if he didn’t take care of himself no one was going to chase after him and do so. Times have changed, when I was growing up I was told not to even entertain the thought of having sex at all. But like you said “teenage girls and boys do indeed engage in sexual intimacy”.

    My mum did a pretty good job of scaring me into believing all sorts of things would happen to her (her back would break, she could see it the moment I did it and all sorts) if I had sex so luckily I only started having sex late into my 20s. Luckily now people are more open about sex and I would like to believe abstinence will be hard to preach given all the sex information floating all over the place. I would say parents and caregivers should accept that sex happens and inform their children before things go wrong. It’s always better safe than sorry….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, maybe my mother and yours were long lost cousins in this area 🙂 And it is true, with the ease of information, it becomes more important for parents to be open about this with teenage children so they get information needed from home first hand.

      Hope your nephew remembers your advice, at least he has something to work with.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I watched an episode of 20/20 last week in which a young woman who came from a very religious background was put in prison after she gave birth to twins and accidentally killed them by covering their mouths so her family would not hear them cry. This poor girl hid a pregnancy, gave birth by herself, killed her babies to save face for her family! We will continue to hear more stories like this until we are honest about sex but that would mean that most grown folks would have to admit they are just as ignorant as the youth when it comes to sex education.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never believed in abstinence, It does not work. it is hypocritical and unrealistic. We must educate our boys and girls about sex. Also,We must not bible bash about what the bible says about sex outside marriage. Educating them to protect themselves is the best way forward. well, In my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I, totally, agree abstinence is not likely to solve this. Giving young girls access to information, guidance and support so that they can make informed decisions before engaging in sexual activity. Thank you for the information you shared in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

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