World AIDS Day 2017; Addressing Young People’s Risky Behaviors Exposing Them To HIV Infections
It was a sunny afternoon. Adomer Patricia and her friends were seated under a tent at the Boma grounds in Moroto, one of the districts in Karamoja region. Like other young people, Adomer and her friends had come to attend activities at the field that were organized to celebrate 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV).
While they played Omweso(a local board game), Adomer got destructed by the boys playing football. As if reminded about something by the wordings on the jerseys, she turns back to her friends, one of whom was a Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU) Peer Educator and narrated something very interesting about how early sexual activity leads to school drop out and greatly exposes young people to HIV/AIDS.
She said, “Girls in boarding school sometimes want to eat nice things like biscuits and sulla (a local snack) but cannot afford them because their parents did not give them enough money. Some men buy for them these things and tell them not to pay them back with money. When they ask them what they want in exchange for the eats, they say anything you want”.
Adomer Patricia in a discussion with our peer educators on the SRHR challenges she and her peers face
According to Adomer, “anything you want” is a common phrase used in their area to refer to sex. She says many girls end up dropping out of school or contracting HIV/AIDS because of “anything you want”.
Key to note that day was the lack of knowledge about Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and early sex debuts amongst young people. It was an indication that as much as some success has been registered in quelling the rates of HIV/AIDS, new strategies need to be employed to address challenges of risky behavior that continues to expose young people to HIV/AIDS.
As part of the activities of the day, Reach A Hand Uganda implemented the second edition of the five year Protect The Goal campaign in Moroto. The campaign was created by the Karamoja United Nations HIV Program to create awareness about HIV/AIDS through football games by sending the message that life is like a game, and you have to ensure HIV doesn’t score.
Action from the Protect The Goal football tournament, an avenue for creating HIV/AIDS awareness in the Karamoja region
During this year’s campaign, RAHU provided a multiplicity of reproductive health services shared important information with the young people to empower to enable them protect themselves from HIV.
According to Moroto District Health Officer, Mr Andrew Rews, activities such as these are what is needed in communities to help young people protect themselves from risky behavior.
“Through using football to spread HIV/AIDS awareness messages, you take the change to young people. You give them knowledge and services using something they like to do. We need to identify more of such methods” he said.
Commencing the morning march past through Moroto municipality, that attracted many members of the community
According to statistics from the Community Development Office in Moroto District, there is an 8% drop out rate amongst girls in the district. Menstrual hygiene challenges, forced marriage and teenage pregnancy are amongst the major things the district registers as causes of the dropouts.
Most of the men in this area are accused of luring young girls into sex by promising them money to buy sanitary pads, exposing them to HIV/AIDS.
Amidst such challenges as also narrated by Adomer, it is only wiser that young people are empowered with information about Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights so they can have the knowledge required to make right decisions that will protect them from contracting HIV/AIDS.