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Wasting sperm: the cultural context of condom use among the Maasai of Northern Tanzania

By Ernestina Coast


This document reports data drawn from a study conducted in September 2002 that investigated the context of HIV/AIDS knowledge and attitudes among rural Tanzanian Maasai men and women. A primary focus of the work was exploration of the cultural context of condom knowledge and use. The study site was Ngorongoro District in rural northern Tanzania. Low levels of condom knowledge were discovered through questionnaire and focus group research. Given the low levels of condom knowledge, the author argues that it is unsurprising that incorrect beliefs about condoms and their efficacy abound. The association of condoms with non-Maasai, or at least, non- ruralites (and thus non-Maasai), was expressed. The "otherness" of HIV and consequent condom use manifests itself in a variety of ways. For example, the highly ritualised nature of Maasai male circumcision results in a strongly held belief that condoms are unsuitable for penises that have undergone a Maasai circumcision. This paper concludes that there is a rationale for the development of culturally-specific HIV/AIDS programmes. This is underscored by the fact that, although human biology is the same everywhere, sexual behaviour in general and condom use in particular are the result of complex socio- cultural values and economic and political conditions, which differ from one society to another and between different groups within a society

Topics: H Social Sciences (General), RA Public aspects of medicine
Year: 2003
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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