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Young people fear pregnancy more than AIDS

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th November 2009 03:00 AM

A UNIVERSITY student broke up with his girlfriend after learning she was cheating on him. It is then that he realised he could have contracted HIV, seeing that she was neither faithful nor did they use condoms.

By Gilbert KidImu

A UNIVERSITY student broke up with his girlfriend after learning she was cheating on him. It is then that he realised he could have contracted HIV, seeing that she was neither faithful nor did they use condoms.

The possibility of catching HIV had never crossed his mind because he thought its prevalence only took its toll on older people.

On another occasion, a couple also at university, who suspected a pregnancy dashed to several clinics hoping she was not having a baby.

They were relieved to learn she was not and that was the end of the story — no HIV test was done and no condoms were used for the future.

A 21-year-old girl admits dreading pregnancy than contracting AIDS and since her boyfriend hates using condoms, her “safe days” are their sole margin of safety.

Experts say such a situation is common among many youth in Uganda. They are more afraid of unplanned pregnancies than of STDs

Statistics show that the number of sexually active youth from ages 18- 25, who go for HIV/ AIDS testing is too small, hence many are at the risk of infection.

Some do not go for testing because they think the possibility of contracting HIV is minimal, whereas others will keep away due to fear of learning the truth.

Many in rural areas are afraid of the stigma prevailing in communities while others are simply lost in complacency.

“HIV causes fear among many because of the possibility of having positive results,” reveals Davis Bukenya, a behavioural change advocate of Naguru Teenage information centre.

Bukenya argues that girls involved in crossgenerational relationships are intimidated into having unprotected sex because of the big age gap.

“Being extremely younger than the men, their choices are grossly compromised,” he adds.

Naguru Teenage Information Centre is one of public programmes in Uganda, which helps young people aged between 10 and 24 by treating STDs and other related reproductive illnesses free of charge.

“We sensitise both the school-going youth and those, who live in communities. Periodically, we show educative programmes like movies, run media supplements and distribute condoms,” explains Bukenya

The Aids Support Organisation (TASO) clinic also runs AIDS youth clubs in schools and carries out outreaches, workshops and seminars to sensitise communities about abstinence and those already infected are educated on staying positive and living healthy.

Rebecca Nvule, the project director of TASO clinic in Mulago, says they have special programmes for those infected with AIDS, where they train them in different skills to become selfreliant and give them ARVs for free.

She says finances limit the youth sensitisation programmes. “Funding is slowing us down since we can not reach our targeted number, sometimes we only go to schools,” explains Nvule
The inaccessibility of HIV counselling and testing services in rural areas also frustrates their efforts.

Whereas urban areas are fairly exposed to such facilities, some people have never heard of HIV counselling or testing. Dr. Etukoit says this information gap gives people a no-risk perception, which makes the situation complex.

Bukenya says one of the biggest challenges is people’s reaction to messages. They seem to have heard them many times hence they do not give them full attention.

“We are changing our strategy and being more realistic in the programmes. We have included the condom idea. Previously, we mainly focused on abstinence, which was not practical,” he says.

Statistics show that in spite of condom distribution among youth, they admit to having unprotected sex, at least once.
Out of the 800 youth who test for HIV/AIDS, about 3% turn out positive and 75% of those tested positive are girls.

Bukenya advises teenagers and youth to test for HIV/AIDS as the ultimate way to prevention and protection. “It is a good choice to take a test.

Believe abstinence and practice it. If you fail at least use a condom and endeavour to test with your partner.” He adds.

Young people fear pregnancy more than AIDS

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