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Nairobi, Kenya 2001

TRUST


Trust is a brand of prophylactics widely advertised in Kenya. An ad on a Nairobi coffen Makers wall evokes the struggle between a virtue and a reality. Trust, or the lack of it, sums up the failure to stop HIV in a place like Kenya. There is a web of individual, social and national reasons.

Individuals can stop HIV by trusting wisely. Both abstinence and faithfulness require trust in ones self, in others and in God. The use of the product advertised here requires a different kind of confidence. Many would question its compatibility with the trust just mentioned. Others feel that the use of prophylactics is, in the final analysis, a matter of life and death. Churches across Africa are struggling to strike a balance.

Societies can stop HIV with trust and respect for all members. Health statistics show that women are the most frequent victims of the AIDS virus in Africa. Within any society where men exercise power over women, trust between women and men is easily strained or broken. Expressed in personal and cultural practices, such violations of trust permit the spread of AIDS. The impact of poverty only makes the issue more critical. In the ad in the photograph, the face of the female has peeled away.

Nationally, shared trust empowers both citizens and government. After decades of one-party rule and related corruption, the citizens of Kenya do not appear to trust their country to do much of anything for them, let alone lead them in the epic struggle that is needed for a society and its members to stop AIDS. Some community and church groups are breaking out of the shadows of suspicion and stigma that favor the spread of HIV, but much broader participation is needed in order for their society to build up enough trust needed to stop the virus.

 

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