Focusing on ending HIV through empowering communities on the negative effects of HIV related Stigma.
Uganda continues to experience a generalized HIV epidemic. Evidence from recent national surveys indicate that about 1.2 million people in Uganda are living with HIV, out of which 57% are females, 13% children less than 15 years (MoH, 2011). The 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey (UAIS) revealed that overall, 7.3% of Ugandans aged 15-49 are HIV-positive and that HIV prevalence is higher among women (8.3) compared to men (6.1). The National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan 2011/12-2014/15 identified stigma and discrimination as one of the socio-cultural factors that drives the epidemic. It is acknowledged that discrimination on the basis of sero-status sets in motion a string of human rights violations, which require legal protection. Persons affected by HIV, especially orphans and widows, are largely powerless and vulnerable to many kinds of rights abuses (UAC 2007).
Stigma affects those who are infected and those affected by association, such as orphans or children and families of people living with HIV (Mukasa, 2008). Stigma derives from negative thoughts based on a prejudiced position (out-casting) and affects the thinking and behaviour of people whereby a person is looked at in a negative and judgmental way. Stigma has deep roots in culture, personal and social fears, denial, misconceptions, myths and even religious beliefs. It is mainly due to limited knowledge about HIV transmission or fear of risk of HIV infection. Persons most affected by stigma include, PLWHA, OVC, adolescents, especially if pregnant, and single mothers (UAC, 2007).
Stigma and discrimination directed at people living with HIV or those believed to be HIV-infected, leads to the violation of other human rights, such as right to health, dignity, privacy, equality before the law, and freedom from inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment (Mukasa, 2008).HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination undermines public health efforts to combat the epidemic. It negatively affects preventive behaviors such as condom use, HIV test-seeking behavior, care-seeking behavior, quality of care given to HIV-positive patients, and perception and treatment of PLHIV by communities, families, and partners (Mukasa, 2008). Stigma, fear and discrimination are mentioned by various stakeholders to be key factors that hinder people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) from accessing ART (MOH and ORC Macro 2006). In some cases, PLHIV are denied treatment and are prematurely discharged once it is realized they are HIV positive.
Radio Talk show on HIV Stigma and Discrimination
On 30th November 2015, as one of the pre-activities geared towards World AIDS Day 2015, Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU)in collaboration with Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS(UNYPA) conducted a radio talk show on Akaboozi FM aimed at increasing awareness and sensitization on the negative effects of HIV related stigma and discrimination within slum communities.
During the radio talk show, Ssegawa Derrick- HIV/AIDS Ambassador shared his experiences and challenges he has gone through since 2001. In 2001, Derrick’s parents disclosed his status to him and the reason why he had been falling sick frequently at school. Derrick is currently working as an HIV/AIDS Motivational Speaker with Health and Care Foundation, Peer Educator at Jinja Regional AIDs Information Center as well as winner for the Y-Plus Beauty Pageant- Jinja Region
Live TV Talk Show on HIV Stigma and Discrimination.
On 1st December 2015, PHAU Team Leader – Segawa Patrick was hosted on Urban TV Uganda to talk about the continued negative effects of HIV related Stigma and Discrimination among women and young people in Uganda. Together with Ssegawa Derrick- HIV/AIDS Ambassador, they shared experiences and challenges of young people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
“When I found out about my HIV/AIDS Status, I started taking alcohol and drugs until when my father counseled me” Derrick told Edmond Safali from Urban TV
“HIV Stigma strategies need to be integrated in all HIV/AIDS management programs such as at health centers to increase uptake of ART services by PLHIV” said Segawa Patrick
World AIDS Day 2015 Celebrations
On 1st December 2015, Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU)with support from African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF)commemorated World AIDS Day 2015 in one of the Kampala’s largest Slum – Kamwokya. The World AIDS Day 2015 theme was “Women and Girls against Stigma” which resonates with the global theme (2012-16) Getting to Zero- Zero new HIV infections, Zero Stigma, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-Related deaths. This year’s celebration involved an exhibit of Creative and Performance ARTs aimed at increasing awareness and sensitization on the different forms of stigma and discrimination among women and girls living with HIV/AIDS. This exhibition provided a platform for women and girls to speak and share experience on issues affecting women and girls living positive. More so, women and girls used this platform to voice out issues related to stigma and discrimination in a creative and fun way through thematic slum poetry, short skits and dance narratives.
“It’s really inspiring to see young people taking the fore front in empowering communities with HIV/AIDS information to fight stigma and discrimination among women and girl through use of music, dance and drama ” said Dr. Sabrina Kitaka – Guest of Honour.
A senior pediatrician and Adolescent Health Specialist in the Department of Paediatrics, Mulago, Dr. Sabrina Kitaka has said that if we are fight stigma among the youth everybody should be everybody’s responsibility.
During the HIV Stigma Photo, ART, Dance and Music exhibition, a total of 237 young people and women received free integrated HIV/AIDS Counseling and Testing services and only 5 who tested positive were immediately referred for further management. A total of 75 young people and women received free Body Mass Index and Blood Pressure services, and 49 of them received free Blood Sugar services.
“Young people and youths have to strive a lot to ensure that they protect themselves from getting the HIV/AIDS virus, ” Dr. Sabrina Kitaka told the Journalists in Kamwokya
A total of 10,800 condoms were distributed after an exclusive condom demonstration to the young people and women with help of the peer educators. Correct and consistent use of condoms provides a dual protection against the HIV/AIDS, STIs and unplanned pregnancy.
Youth and women groups of people living with HIV/AIDS were also provided with hub/space to exhibit their works/services done through the various income generating groups such as crafts, bags, sculptures, clothes, beads and t-shirts.
Furthermore, the celebrations were climaxed with a premier/launch of the “Tuli Wamu Nawe” song against HIV stigma and discrimination among women and girls in Uganda. This song was recorded in four different native local languages hence it will be reach out to a wide audience of public on HIV stigma and discrimination.
This activity was conducted in colloboration with Treasure Life Youth Center, AHF Uganda Cares, Marie Stopes Uganda, UAP Insurance, Riham Uganda, Hype Uganda, Bridge Films, Uganda Youth Alliance on Family Planning and Adolescent Health, Peer to Peer Uganda, Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS, Miss Uganda Foundation, A & S Electronics and Uganda Police.
Follow the “TuliWamuNawe” Campaign on our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTubeusing the following Hashtags #TuliWamuNawe #AcceptMe #EmbraceMe #WomenandGirlsagainstStigma and take a pledgeto the support this cause by showing love, care and support to women and girls living HIV/AIDS.