How to stop so many sex partners? Fataki!

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In Swahili, it means “explosive.’’ In Tanzania, a group is using an evil character called Fataki in a mass-media campaign to slap a new ugly name to sugar daddies, older men who prey on girls and young woman for sex. The aim is to empower family and friends of young women to help them avoid the Fatakis, who by definition have multiple sex partners and are a high risk of transmitting HIV.


“ We created a bad character – this Fataki – and the meaning of explosion also means he damages or kills. It’s the behavior of old men chasing young girls and possibility transmitting the HIV virus to them,’’ said Deo Ng’wananasabi of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communications Programs.  “We also wanted some humor with it because that helps people remember the message.’’

He presented the campaign as part of a session on one of the hot topics of the HIV/AIDS Implementers’ Meeting: how to stop people from having multiple concurrent sex partners.

The Tanzanian campaign placed a script on 15 radio stations, including four nationwide stations, which has run the spot 28,000 times since November. It has also hung 1000 banners in 10 regions. The cost: $545,000.

Has it worked? Ng’wananasabi said he has only early results. His group conducted a small survey that showed  73 percent had been exposed to the campaign in the first three months; 37 percent, unprompted, named a lecherous man as a Fataki; and 50 percent reporting intervening in some way against a sugar daddy. In addition, newspapers have started using Fataki in headlines to talk about bad men – reinforcing the campaign’s message.

Marelize Gorgens of the World Bank said that one of the greatest challenges in reducing concurrent partnerships is to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the programs. She also said it wasn’t enough to simply get the message out about the risks of being in more than one sexual relationship at the same time.

“ We cannot focus only on the behavior — we must measure and understand the underlying drivers of those behaviors,’’ Gorgens said. “We also need to measure which social norms need to be strengthened and reinforced.’’

Soul City Institute, a South African NGO running a campaign called “OneLove’’ aimed at reducing overlapping sexual relationships, conducted a study in nine southern African countries on why people were involved in concurrent relationships.

Some of the findings: alcohol was a key driver; men cannot control their sexual desire; sexual dissatisfaction; lack of communication; and having more than one sexual relationship was an accepted social and cultural practice.

Dvora Joseph, director of HIV programs for Population Services International in Mozambique, said her  organization surveyed 4180 men and women in three provinces. She said one conclusion from the study was that prevention messages needed to “go beyond the basic … fidelity and being faithful to one partner. We want to make sure we are not preaching to our audience.’’

One of the conference delegates cautioned against trying to change the behavior of those in polygamous societies.

“We’re not attacking polygamy at all,’’ Joseph said, but added there was a major difference between closed and open polygamous marriages. “In a closed traditional polygamous house, they do not have additional partners outside. What makes this message so difficult is we don’t want to preach fidelity and monogamy in a culture where polygamy is so prevalent.’’

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