War's Legacy Fuels HIV Spread in Northern Uganda

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In northern Uganda, daughters with limited understanding of HIV/AIDS are married off at young ages into polygamous households still struggling with the legacy of a brutal 16-year civil war. The practice is a recipe for rapid disease transmission.

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Insurgency Fuels High HIV Rate

"HIV prevalence in northern Uganda is higher than the national average because of the insurgency," says Dr. Zainabu Akol, manager of the AIDS Control Program, set up by the Ministry of Health. "People were made to live in camps, and sex became the only source of entertainment."

Water scarcity in internally displaced person camps also led to long lines and night trips to the wells or "boreholes," says Muzaaya Geofrey, manager of the Gulu branch of The AIDS Support Organization, TASO, a nongovernmental organization that provides HIV services.

"The more time they spend at the borehole, the more they get exposed to acts that expose them to HIV," he says.

Geofrey says that a lack of education and push toward early marriages by parents – and by women who wanted a man to protect them during the war – also led to a higher frequency of HIV transmission.

"Many children born during the war did not go to school," he says. "They are now adolescents. Parents are marrying them off to get favors or money."

AIDS Control Program's Akol says there are many governmental and nongovernmental organizations working on HIV/AIDS in northern Uganda. Ongom says one of these, TASO, helped her cope with her diagnosis.

"Before I joined TASO, I had contemplated suicide," Ongom says. "I wanted to kill myself and poison my children because I had lost hope."

She says TASO has also provided free medication and counseling, which she says has helped her to stop hating herself.

Adapted from original content published by the Global Press Institute. Read the original article here. All shared content has been copyrighted by Global Press Institute.


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Apophia Agiresaasi joined Global Press Institute in February 2011. She has completed certified Global Press Institute trainings in gender and post-conflict reporting and arts and culture.

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