Kakaire Kirunda thinks the only way to stop the spread of HIV among teenagers is to treat them like adults.
Against a soothing instrumental background, a group of female friends discuss the hazards of sugar daddies on a popular Ugandan radio show:
Mary: Let me tell you about this friend of mine. A few months ago she told me mbu [that] she met this nice guy with a lot of money. Yes he was married but he treated her like a queen, took her to all the nice clubs, and bought her a really cool phone. Even the expensive clothes, he bought. Now yesterday she came to me crying, her world is falling a part. She has just found out that she is pregnant.
Kate: And the nice man?
Mary: He is not interested. He is tired of her. But that is not the worst part; she is also infected with HIV.
Kate: Girls! The gifts, the nights out, the cash, can never be worth your life and future. Older men are taking advantage of you and putting you at risk of HIV infection in exchange for these bu [small] things. This practice is called cross-generational sex. Respect yourselves, do what I do. Say no to sugar daddies…
Uganda wants an HIV-free generation and, to help to achieve this, the government has begun an onslaught against so-called cross-generational sex. The practice is defined as young people, especially girls, entering into sexual relationships with people who are more than ten years older.
Catchy as it is, I believe this media campaign is in danger of overlooking an inconvenient truth – young people are not contracting HIV simply because they have sex with older people, they are also at risk of transmitting HIV to one another.