The Matalisi: Pathway to early sexual initiation among the youth of Mpigi, Uganda

Odaybea I. Morrow, Michael D. Sweat, Richard H. Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper describes the role and personal characteristics of the "matalisi," a previously unreported phenomenon uncovered during a study of youth sexual behavior in Uganda. The "matalisi," a go-between, played a central role in sexual relationships of most youth in Mpigi, Uganda. The first phase of the study was an ethnographic inquiry of youth (ages 10-16) sexual behavior. During this phase it became evident that matalisis were used in most courtships and initial sexual liaisons. The second phase included a sociometric investigation of youth networks and a mini survey of youth who had been matalisis. Among youth interviewed, 47.3% of males (105/222) and 14.1% of females (42/298) had experienced sexual intercourse. For 88%, participating as someone's matalisi preceded first coitus. By understanding the role of the matalisi, interventions may be developed to improve sex education and more effectively address sexual behaviors that lead to unwanted pregnancies, STIs, and HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-378
Number of pages14
JournalAIDS and behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004


  • HIV
  • Initiation of sexual intercourse
  • Matalisi (a go-between)
  • Risky behavior
  • Sex education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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