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Activists fault HIV interventions

By Vision Reporter

Added 30th November 2013 08:50 PM

Many interventions in the fight against HIV are not yielding the desired results because they are not designed around the social-economic needs of the community, especially the gender issue.

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Many interventions in the fight against HIV are not yielding the desired results because they are not designed around the social-economic needs of the community, especially the gender issue.

By John Agaba

Many interventions in the fight against HIV are not yielding the desired results because they are not designed around the social-economic needs of the community, especially the gender issue.


This challenge has kept HIV incidences in the country soaring with about 140, 000 people acquiring the virus last year.

Beatrice Were, an AIDS activist, said “Many of the interventions be it counseling, EMTCT (elimination of mother to child transmissions) and condom use are not getting us the results we want because we are not paying attention to the needs of these people we are asking to use condoms.”

This was during training for government institutions mandated to implement HIV laws on human rights at Hotel Triangle in Kampala.

The two-day event was organized by the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET).

“You go to a health facility. And after testing you are given a box of condoms,” said Were. “Where do you want me to take a box of condoms? Where? To a home that is not mine? To a bed that is not mine? And you expect me to use the condoms? How?”

Uganda posts an HIV prevalence of 7.3%. More worrying are the about 356 new infections registered daily.

She said that HIV management program makers need to understand the social cultural differences surrounding different societies when designing such important HIV response programs.

“The intention and motive definitely is good. We want to reduce the numbers of people contracting HIV. But is this the best way, the best approach of getting both men and women use condoms?” she asked.

She had many dumbfounded when she asked the women in the room to raise their hand if they had ever used a female condom, let alone seen one. No one raised their hand that they had used the condom.

Were added that fewer mothers, about 50%, were accessing EMTCT services. “And this is because the approach does not put to consideration that the person we are targeting does not have the power.”

“She has no money. They tell her to come back for follow-up. But she has no transport. When she asks the husband for transport money and the man says he has no money, she will not go,” added Were.

“Some of you ask yourselves why a woman who has tested for HIV and they are negative keeps sleeping with a man who has refused to take a test and has several other women he is sleeping with—why she keeps risking her life. But she has nowhere to go. She has no land. No Money. And she can’t go back to her parents.”

During the training, the argument was largely on whether Uganda needs legislation on HIV, seeing the parliamentary committee on health and HIV is fronting the HIV/AIDS control Bill 2010 to among other reasons criminalize people who spread the virus intentionally.

Were said: “We need a law. But we don’t have to be overemotional about it. We need a law that can protect people from contracting HIV. But this same law should not cause stigma against people already living with the virus.”

Parts of the Bill many members argued were contentious and needed to be rephrased includes the issue of mandatory testing, disclosure to a third party by a medical practitioner and criminalization of HIV transmission.

Nakato Marilyn from the Uganda Human Rights Commission acknowledged that HIV was running out of hand in Uganda and it needed to be checked. “But we need to be careful not to create a law that will violate people’s rights.”

Ali Walimbwa from the Health Ministry said Uganda is doing badly in the fight against HIV. “Compared to years back when we reduced HIV prevalence to 6.4% we are doing badly. We need to have legislation to make sure that it is criminal to spread HIV.”

Dora Musinguzi, UGANET’s executive director, however, questioned the feasibility of the Bill, passed into law as it is currently, in scaling down HIV incidences.

Uganda will on Sunday, December 1, join the rest of the world to commemorate the World AIDS Day. Celebrations will be held in Mbarara district under the theme: “Re-engaging Communities for Effective HIV Prevention.”

Activists fault HIV interventions

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