“The first time I met Chariette [a peer educator for the Cameroon National Planning Association for Family Welfare] was at Sunday football, around four years ago. She was invited by the organizer to come and talk to us when the match was over. We were all men but she wasn’t intimidated and she handled the stupid jokes well.
We stayed in touch and then one day I realized I had an STI. It’s a little taboo and I didn’t want to talk about it. I bought some drugs at the local market but they didn’t have any effect. I called Chariette and we discussed what had happened. She told me to come to the CAMNAFAW clinic and I did, where I spoke about my problem and they gave me proper drugs to get rid of it.
That day, I decided to become a peer educator myself. There are a lot of guys who are suffering but too scared to speak out. Above all, men are scared of talking about STIs.
I now work in schools and youth groups, especially sports teams. They will insist they don’t have anything wrong but every Sunday since then I have gone round the teams and chatted with them.
I speak about pregnancy as well. It’s the guys who push women to have sex without a condom and also to have an abortion afterwards. I help to raise awareness of why we have to protect ourselves.
It’s hard to recruit people to become peer educators because we are volunteers. It’s not easy to persuade people to change their ways. The view from a lot of churches is very strict and centers on abstinence. The young men want to be macho.”
Hervé Tchuigwa Djiya is a peer educator for the Cameroon National Planning Association for Family Welfare (CAMNAFAW)