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AIDS Care. 1994;6(2):193-203.

Attitudes to sex and sexual behaviour in rural Matabeleland, Zimbabwe.

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Department of Health, Matabeleland North Province, Zimbabwe.


Though HIV prevention campaigns in Zimbabwe have increased public awareness of HIV, they have not meaningfully changed sexual behaviour. Possibly these campaigns are based on wrong assumptions about sexual behaviour. By means of 111 structured interviews with hospital patients, secondary school students and teachers, and 11 focus group discussions with traditional healers, midwives, village community workers, secondary school students and teachers, and commercial sex workers in a rural district of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, this low-budget study explores attitudes towards sex and sexual behaviour in order to define more appropriate health education messages. Results indicate that traditional sex education no longer takes place and that communication between sexual partners is limited. The almost ubiquitous expectation of women to get rewards for sex outside marriage motivates mostly single women out of economic necessity to meet the male demand for sexual partners, which is created by large scale migrant labour and men's professed 'biological' need for multiple partners. Types of sexual behaviour other than penetrative vaginal sex are uncommon and considered deviant. Safe sex messages from the West therefore are inappropriate in the Zimbabwean context. Recommendations are given to restore traditional communication about sexual matters across generations and to urge sexual partners to discuss sex. Women who, for economic reasons, engage in casual sex should at least learn to negotiate the use of condoms. Men seriously need to reconsider their attitudes to sex and sexual practices in view of the high HIV sero-prevalence. Faithfulness, rather than multiple sexual contacts, should become a reason to boast.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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