14 October 2009

Behavior Change

Night comes early in Dar. The sky is midnight blue in the moonlight, and from where I was sitting, on a rooftop Ethiopian restaurtant off Migombani Street, I could see cluster of palm trees sway gently in the cool night air.

I was having dinner with my new friend, Cristina Broker. Cristina is a 28-year-old Boston native who arrived in Dar five months ago to work for Population Services International (PSI). In between bites of beef tibs, she told me about a social marketing campaign she and her colleagues are creating to help promote condom use and discourage concurrent sexual partners—one of the things helping to spread HIV in many African countries, including Tanzania. The campaign will spread messages, via radio, television and in print, that will encourage Tanzanians to engage in less risky sexual behavior by reminding them that it is in their personal, social and economic interest to do so.

It was the first time Cristina and I had had a chance to really talk one on one since meeting, so we covered the usual range of topics: work, where we are from, where we studied, what we miss about home, how long we plan on staying, and: Guys. I told her about a relationship I'm trying to wean myself off of and she told me about a similar situation in her own life. There was a lot of laughing and shaking our heads. We know what is best for us. We understand what it costs to keep on down the same road. But changing your behavior—even when you know it is in your interest—is hard.

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