Voice correspondent recently got a lift from Dukwi Refugee Camp to Francistown.
In the car he heard a conversation about the stigma associated with buying condoms in a retail shop.
There was not a dull moment on the 100km journey as the three passengers discussed the topic.
PASSENGER AT THE BACK: Life in Africa in general and Botswana in particular is unbearable.
Will Africans ever become civilized and start behaving like the people in the first world like United States of America and Europe.
PASSENGER IN FRONT: What happened? Do you think Africans are not civilized enough? I think we are at par with the Europeans and Americans.
And some Africans are even better than first world citizens. What is your argument, based on? Please explain.
PASSENGER AT THE BACK: I am talking about the issue of us being conservative.
We are steeped in tradition and that is one of the reasons we are failing to nip HIV/AIDS in the bud. Issues related to sex cant be discussed openly in Africa.
Why should everything is stigmatized.
DRIVER: I don’t get your argument. Batswana and Africans in general cannot just discuss sex because it is against our culture and we have no reason to change it.
PASSENGER IN FRONT: Give him the chance to explain himself. Maybe he has a worthwhile argument to put across which could help us. Tswa ka tsone, monna (Say it out man).
PASSENGER AT THE BACK: (With everybody laughing) I am talking about the stigma associated with people buying condoms in retail shops.
DRIVER: What stigma? We are anxious to hear your side of the story but you are beating about the bush.
What happened? Something must have happened when you were buying some condoms at one of these big retail outlets.
PASSENGER AT THE BACK: Yes, it once happened to me. I was queuing in one of these retail outlets just to buy a packet of condoms.
When my turn to buy arrived, everyone gave me a strange look. In the end I was too embarrassed to buy the exact quantity and brand of condoms I wanted.
DRIVER: Come on, man. Condoms are life especially in this era of HIV/AIDS.
It is your life and you must do everything within your power to ensure that you are protected from catching HIV/AIDS.
PASSENGER IN FRONT: It might sound that simple but it is a difficult decision to take when all eyes are on you.
It requires one to summon all the boldness and courage they can muster when you can clearly see that people have already concluded that if you buying condoms, you are going to have sex. Sex is a private thing in Africa.
DRIVER: Does that matter? Who does not know that sex is part of life?
PASSENGER AT THE BACK: Some will think that you have hired a prostitute or are going to have sex with a married man, if you are a woman.There is a lot of stigma associated with buying of condoms.
DRIVER: It does not matter guys. I personally buy condoms in an outlet with everyone watching.
I do not bother about the next person. So summon your courage and buy condoms in big outlets and forget about stigma, it’s a matter of life and death after all. (We arrived in Francistown).
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