Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) remains a major public health problem in Uganda, with about 1.5million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2015 (Uganda Demographic Health (UDHS 2016). Significant progress has been registered in addressing HIV/AIDS in Uganda; however a lot is still required especially to address specific regional and local disparities, challenges and needs.
In Uganda today, over 2.2 million people are living with HIV. Since the epidemic started, over 1.7 million children have been orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDA according to data provided by the “US bureau of census and World Bank. The socio-economic fall- out from the epidemic in hard hit communities effects more the children orphaned by HIV/AIDs.
Study estimates that almost 590.000 children of the 22million are infected with HIV. The prevalence rates stands at 6.0% and the prevalence is highest on islands and landing sites of approximately 38%, main road trading centers with 26% of men and 47% of the women infected. In most villages, 8% of men and 9% of women are infected with HIV, quite higher that the national 6% prevalence rate.
HIV is known to be the world’s number one health threat to mankind ever before and
Africa’s number one killer. The AIDS epidemic in Uganda is still severe elsewhere in the world and the most recent findings indicate that the number of infestations by far increase daily in the rural areas of Uganda. Females between the ages of 20-24 show the highest rates of infection with HIV/AIDS. Adolescent females are more vulnerable than their male counterparts in the same age group.
Today, over half of the new cases occur in the between 12-24 years. Uganda is one of the worst hit by the AIDS epidemic in the world with 1.7 million children orphaned at the loss of either one or both their parents. These orphans are stigmatized, denied inheriting property left behind by their parents. They face excrement economic uncertainly are at risk of malnutrition, illness, sexual abuse and exploitation compared to children orphaned otherwise. This goes hand in hand with causing psychosocial suffering to these children resulting into other social problems as influx of street children resulting into other social problems as influx of street children, retarded growth drug abuse and addiction among others.
The HIV/AIDS problem is so complex that to overcome it, one must take into consideration a series of closely inter-related issues. Through working with women, youth and communities, Zidan Benevolence International has learnt that:
- The rapid spread of HIV/AIDs among adolescents and young adults (10-24 years is simply a symptom of deep underlying chronic cause. These include poverty, unemployment, gender bias breakdown of family and community structures, insufficient parenting, moral degeneration, rape, defilement, lack of like skills harmful traditional cultural practices and beliefs, peer and social pressure, lack of role models lack of adequate information and alternative services to them.
- For most young people, change of behavior is viewed as being hard and unattainable. Our experience demonstrates that a gap exists between knowledge and information on one hand and change of behavior on the other. Helping individuals develop and internalize life skills can bridge this gap. Life skills, in this case, act as a link between mitigating factors, that is knowledge of positive behavior and their benefit and behavior change, which is action. Life skills therefore create the capacity and will to choose from alternatives and implement the desired choices. In both the short and long run life skills translate knowledge of what to do, into how to do it, and provide the enabling factors for doing it.
- Behavior change is a gradual process that requires continuous support from ones immediate and distant environment. The support young people get from their immediate communities, guardians and givers are invaluable in this process.
- Peer and social pressure: Inadequate access to services due to numerous reasons such as a distance, poor quality services and unfriendly attitudes of health service providers to young people, economic submission of young girls, limited responsibilities culturally assigned to men in regard to reproductive health are among the factors impending behavioral change.
- Using the “Fear strategy” to effect behavior change is counterproductive. With the advent of HIV/AIDS, some of the presentation strategies that were designed relied on generating fear in the minds of people so as to bring about change in their sexual behavior. This led to some young people resorting to bestiality, incent and defilement as a safe means of venturing their sexual energy.
While implementing our activities, Zidan Benevolence International has learnt that from positive change to be effected, individuals need to be facilitated to understand how to apply the twin motivating force of “fear and pleasure” to achieve good results. This in our experience helps individuals to examine their perceptions and how perceptions lead to their attitudes and behavior.
- Community sensitization and mobilization, which is the provision of information, Education and Communication (IEC) to communities to ensure their participation, contribution and involvement in solving a common problem, through change of knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) is very crucial for the success of any program/project. We have learnt that equipping young people with life skills should be accompanied with programs seeking to sensitize their parents/guardians, teachers and community members. Sustainability of this Project/Program will only be achieved if the community and the beneficiaries themselves recognize it as a goal and if they contribute adequately to the process, rather than as an aspiration of the implementing agency.
The problem to be addressed therefore is the negative modes of behavior that expose people to risks of the life such as HIV/AIDS infection and its shattering effects on human development. There are two causes to this problem.
- First, the Youth lack adequate knowledge of the cause-effect inter-relationship of life situations.
- Secondly, people especially youth lack adequate life skills to translate the knowledge and information of what to do into how to do it and how to access and utilize the enabling factors of doing it.
In many societies/communities, children orphaned to HIV/AIDS suffer problems such as social distress, isolation, shame, fear and rejection that often surround people infected with HIV.
There is therefore need for confidentiality and privacy in regard to their HIV status that should be recognized.
Young people experience orphan hood at the age when parental guidance and support is most needed; they suffer loss of loves, and innocent taking care of their infected parents before they die. Often they are denied education and health services especially because their extended families cannot afford them.
In this regard therefore, Zidan Benevolence International wishes to address these community needs through strengthening HIV/AIDs prevention strategies and interventions and promote economic strengthening among PLWHIV.
This project is relevant to the strategic objectives of Zidan Benevolence International, and therefore it’s an opportunity for the organization to deliver its objectives, while at the same time making contribution to the national and global goal in the context of HIV prevention in Uganda and the world at large.