Community norms about youth condom use in Western Kenya: Is transition occurring?

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

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Most HIV prevention strategies for African youth have been ineffective in changing key behaviors like condom use, partly because community antagonism and structural barriers have rarely been addressed. Through qualitative research in rural Western Kenya, we sought to describe the attitudes of different segments of society towards youth condom use and to identify where transitions may be occurring. We found that about half of community members strongly opposed youth condom use, with many advocating punishment such as beatings and expulsion. Our research revealed significant differences in attitudes by gender, with females generally more opposed to youth condom use. Health providers, teachers and male students seemed to be transitioning to more permissive attitudes. They also had more accurate knowledge about the condom. Building on these transitional views, we would recommend that schools eliminate sanctions for students found with condoms and that clinics discourage providers from interrogating youths about their reasons for wanting condoms. Furthermore, we believe that health campaigns should portray condoms as “disaster preparedness” devices for responsible youths, and more efforts should be made to dispel myths about condoms’ efficacy.