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Posts Tagged ‘HIV & AIDS’

Every year on December 1, the world celebrates World Aids day, a day that was set aside  to reflect  on efforts  made by man in fighting against HIV and AIDS. Many events and activities are organized world wide  to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on and devise new means of HIV prevention. This years’ world Aids day was on Getting to Zero, Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero Aids- related death.

Despite the many  efforts, increased funding as well as innovation in HIV treatment and prevention, there are many new HIV infections every year.  How can we prevent new infections? The good news so far in HIV prevention is prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Unfortunately not all HIV positive mothers can have access to such service and we still see new HIV infections in new born babies.

“HIV is still with us and in absence of a cure, we need to focus on prevention” Jerry P. Lanier US Ambassador  to Uganda.

Uganda was once a role model country in the fight against HIV and AIDs but from 2001-2010 HIV prevalence has gone up to 9% according to the results from PEPFAR. One wonders what is going on. Could it be that people have become complacent with the disease and yet it is finishing us.
On Dec 5, I attend a dialogue on Youth, HIV Prevention and social media organized by the US Embassy in Kampala and one participant commented that because of ARVS, HIV positive people look healthy and people nologer fear contracting HIV. In late 1980s when there were no ARVS people feared so much because HIV made people look like ghosts and no one wanted to look like that and people were scared and the prevalence was somehow controlled.

Uganda is one of the countries known to have a very young population, how do we engage young people in fight against HIV. How do we create an HIV free generation? Is it possible or not? We  all know that the major HIV transmission is through sexual intercourse with an infected HIV person. How can we ensure good sexual behavior. Sex sex and sex. Can some thing be done to control ones sexual behavior?

Infact  if we are to make  any headway in HIV prevention, much emphasis should be directed towards  changing the  sexual behaviors  and morals of boys and girls, men and women.

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One of the major consequences of armed conflict is the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS. A case in point is the fact that districts which have been affected by armed conflict in Northern and Eastern Uganda have higher HIV and AIDS prevalence than other districts in Uganda. In Gulu district HIV prevalence rose from 9.4% in 2008, to 16% in 2009, with Gulu Municipality health sub-district leading with 22.1%.

According to John Charles Luwa, the district HIV/AIDS focal person, out of the 14,424 pregnant mothers who were tested under the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (PMTCT) in 2009, about 3,214 were HIV-positive, constituting 22.1%. This is attributed to the high instances of sexual violence such as  rapes, defilement and other forms of sexual exploitation like sexual slavery.

In responding to this situation, Isis-WICCE, an International Women’s rights organization   implemented a pilot project  in 2009 on   “Advancing the rights and basic needs of women living with HIV and AIDS in Northern Uganda with special focus on Kitgum. The objective of this initiative is to enhance the rights of women living with HIV/AIDS and enable partners supporting them to be cognizant of their needs from a rights perspective.

Women Paralegals at the Kitgum High Court with Dr Nabisinde(in blue outfit),a former magistrate

It was a realization that enjoyment of  basic rights is still a dream and women have little or no say in the decisions that affect their lives and their health.  HIV and AIDS has  doubled the dose of violations  to women and these violations include gender based violence   due to disclosure to partners, loss of property especially land, loss of marriage rights  including  matrimonial home, stealing  or removal of drugs (ARVs) from  them, stigma and discrimination.

For the lucky few that were targeted in this project like Josephine  Oketayot, an HIV positive  mother of two children, her life  never remained the same. For 8 years in her marriage, she had never enjoyed her basic right such as   freedom of movement, expression and association. She confessed that whenever she wanted to go the market, fetching water and visiting her parents, he had to first ask for permission from her husband could.

not to go anywhere without asking for  permission from her husband be it fetching water, going to the market, and visiting her parents.

Josephine further explains that after the training she went back home with all the materials and handout given plus a bag  with the bag written on “Protect, Promote and Respect Women’s Rights, Yes We Can” which she placed on the bed. And when her husband found it there, he read the message and removed the materials in it and started reading them.

According to Josephine, from that time, her husband’s behavior begun to change because he realized that Josephine is now empowered and she knows her rights. He also told his brothers and sisters that I want all of you to respect my wife. He did not only stop at that, he bought for her a sewing machine so that she can start working and earn something.

Josephine and her husband are now happily married and they also wedded in church in December last year.

Josephine is one of many women whose rights have been violated and don’t have any say or decision in their lives and marriages. Had it not been Isis-WICCE’s  intervention, Josephine would still be isolated, not knowing her rights and resigned to her fate while she continues to suffer all her life. Josephine had this  to say:

I am now a happy woman and I  talk to the people. In the past I used not to talk to anyone when some one would talk to me I would keep quiet but now I go to the villages and sensitize people about  human rights, women’s rights and HIV and AIDS

The intervention also revealed that, HIV and AIDS programmes rolled out to the communities without consulting them have contributed to an increased gender based violence. The programmes in themselves are good but the implementation strategy is what is lacking. A case in point is Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission which mainly target women because of their biological roles. The PMTCT mandates a woman to disclose her HIV status to her partner and request him to a have the HIV test. The dilemma is that this is not critically analyzed to understand its implication at a family level.  

Loyce Kyogabirwe interviewing one of women paralegals after the training in Kitgum

The reality on the ground is that instead, the woman will be blamed for bringing HIV in the family and she will be beaten eventually, she will be chased away. In one of the community discussion I had, there was a story of  a  woman in Kitgum district Northern Uganda, she went to the health centre and was given  a packet of condoms. She was told to keep them in a cool dry place and when she reached at home, she looked for a cool dry place in her house. The only cool dry place she could find was the roof top of her grass thatched hut. When the husband came back he noticed something new on the roof and wanted to find out what exactly it was.

The man reached up and found a packet of condoms. He immediately started beating the wife and accusing him of prostitution. The poor woman was not given an opportunity to explain how the condoms found their way on the roof top. The women told us that they have found better ways of utilizing the condoms by using them to light fire especially the charcoal stove since they are oily, they can easily catch fire.

So where as service providers will attribute their success and achievement to the numbers of condoms distributed, the actual reality is that the intended result may not be attained.

The cultural beliefs, practices and attitudes of most of our societies perpetuate a lot of injustice to women and do not recognize their human rights and one of  them is wife inheritance. In most communities in Africa, when a man dies, his wife has to be inherited and  If she refuses all the property is grabbed from her and she will be chased away from her home.

It is therefore  our responsibility to ensure that women especially those living with HIV and AIDS are protected from such injustice and take control of their lives. When women are availed the knowledge and tools they take charge of their lives and play a key role in transforming the lives of communities

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