Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kenyans struggle to come to terms with abortion and its impact on maternal health

This was originally published on The Huffington Post on Oct. 17, 2012.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- The abortion issue in Kenya is raucous, rancorous and highly emotional and political, just like in the U.S., but there is one major difference: In Kenya, abortion rights have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.

I spent four weeks in Kenya this year working with the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, a coalition of six Kenyan organizations committed to improving maternal health, to communicate better to key groups the nature of those changes. I talked to some 40 doctors, gynecologists, nurses, lawyers, government bureaucrats and technocrats and non-governmental workers and journalists. And a few taxi drivers.

The issue of abortion is so sensitive and taboo in Kenya that it almost derailed the constitution-making process. I discovered that even though the debate was heavily covered by the Kenyan media leading up to the August 2010 referendum, there's still a lot of misinformation on what exactly the Constitution changed, or didn't change -- even among health providers. Some think the Constitution legalized abortion on demand. Others think it changed nothing and abortion remains virtually illegal. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Using sexiness to stop unsafe sex

Sexy condom ads like this helped DKT increase condom sales in Brazil.
This article was published originally by Fast Company's Co.EXIST blog on October 5, 2012.

Sex and sexuality have long been used to market a variety of consumer products in wealthy countries. But when it comes to HIV prevention and family planning in developing countries, global health practitioners have mostly shied away from using the titillating strategies so effective in the commercial world.

The Pleasure Project and a small group of like-minded nonprofit partners are trying to change that, by shaking up an international reproductive health community that tries to promote safer sexual behavior by influencing the most intimate aspects of the lives of people in developing countries. With their motto, “Putting the sexy back into safer sex,” the Pleasure Project is spreading that message far and wide. At the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., this summer, they held a session entitled “Pleasure at AIDS 2012: Everything You Wanted to Know About Pleasurable Safer Sex but Were Afraid to Ask” that explored whether pleasure and eroticism can be harnessed to enhance HIV prevention. The conclusion was that they can indeed, even though most campaigns don’t even try.