BOTSWANA: The ABC of Masturbation

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A youth NGO in Botswana has launched a campaign offering young Batswana another option in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS: masturbation.

The Youth Health Organisation (YOHO) in the capital, Gaborone, and the second city of Francistown, has been promoting the traditional ‘ABC’ prevention strategy, which focuses on abstinence, faithfulness and condoms, but have now said this approach was futile without an M for masturbation.

Botswana has the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world with over 35 percent of its 1.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

Vuyisile Otukile, a YOHO official, said the ABC approach had not helped to bring about behavioural change in young people, as the rate of infection was still high.

“Masturbation is the only option that is foolproof: it is difficult to abstain and to be faithful – by doing it yourself no one will complain that the condom burst,” Otukile pointed out. “We will soon produce a document to guide masturbation.”

The new campaign was prompted by the findings of a survey by YOHO in 2003, which revealed that of about 300 young people interviewed, 90 percent said they masturbated.

“Most agreed that masturbation is one of the options people can use to protect themselves from STDs and HIV/AIDS,” Otukile noted.

Boitumile Sikwane, 26, living in the capital Gaborone and involved in a long-distance relationship, said she had been masturbating since she was 16 and it had prevented her from engaging in sexual activities with multiple partners.

“I find masturbating natural and harmless, and I am very comfortable with it. I recommend it … for people to get sexual satisfaction by going solo rather than having multiple sexual relationships,” she commented.

YOHO, funded by the Botswana and the United States of America HIV/AIDS partnership (BOTUSA), will also promote masturbation through drama, poetry, music and story-telling activities at art festivals, youth fairs and road shows across the country “to give masturbation a human face”.

According to Dr Robson Aruba, a medical practitioner based in Gaborone, masturbation – the deliberate stimulation of one’s own genitals to achieve sexual arousal and pleasure – was one of the healthiest and safest methods of relieving sexual tension.

“It is almost like abstinence, because there is no direct contact with a sexual partner,” he said, but warned that the practice was only “risk-free” if “someone masturbates alone”, as there was still a risk of HIV infection if two people masturbated together.

Although most people masturbate at a certain stage, the practise was particularly widespread among the youth, Aruba noted. “Even though masturbation is one of the safest sexual methods, people still frown at it. My advice would be for people to adopt it without any guilty feelings.”