This article was crossposted on Women Deliver
By Segawa Patrick, Programme Coordinator, Publich Health Ambassador Uganda and Women Deliver Young Leader
“…most people assume that someone with AIDS is immoral. They do not realize that there are other ways of transmission. They simply believe that if someone has AIDS, they must have acquired it through immoral behaviour. They associate you with criminals and hence discriminate against you.” (Male, PLHIV)
Uganda is lauded as a champion against HIV and AIDS for decades, having made tremendous strides in containing the epidemic and reversing its spread. However, the current statistics depict an increase in the incidence of HIV and young people are the group most affected. According to 2011 statistics by the Ministry of Health, 37 per cent of youths are HIV-positive and HIV prevalence is higher among female youths than their male counterparts.1
HIV-related stigma is still prevalent and has been recognized as a key factor impeding disclosure of HIV status, uptake of prevention services, and open discussion of the disease. These are prerequisite for successful mobilization of communities and individuals for HIV prevention. Young people living with HIV are continuously frustrated by the stigma and discrimination they face from their family, colleagues at school, potential employers, and the general public. Young people have limited access to HIV information and services and may engage in risk behaviours that increase their vulnerability as they are poorly informed about how to protect themselves.
With support from African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU), a not-for-profit youth-led organisation, is a running an anti-HIV stigma and discrimination project dubbed “Tuli Wamu Nawe,” which literally means “We are together with You”. PHAU will undertake educational activities and trainings that will help decrease HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, focusing specifically on discrimination directed at women and girls with HIV/AIDS. The program will also mentor 25 women and girls with HIV/AIDS and assist them with setting-up sustainable income generation activities (IGA). Finally, PHAU will forge partnerships with key community stakeholders to ensure that change is sustained long-term. The project will benefit 5 selected communities within Wakiso and Kampala district. It is expected that 25 women and girls with HIV/AIDS will directly benefit from IGA activities, 10,000 community members will benefit from HIV/AIDS education, and 70,000 community members will benefit indirectly from the project!
The peer educators will be our “Stigma Champions” and will be actively involved in educational activities aimed at increasing information flow related to different forms and trends of stigma and discrimination in schools and communities. Our Champions will help spread their passion for reducing stigma and discrimination as they see that it hinders those with HIV/AIDS, especially women and girls, from actively participating in social, economic and political development of local communities and Uganda at large. Our program also works to actively involve PLHIV, empowering them to fight stigma and showing their communities, and Uganda at large, that they are valuable, contributing members of their communities.
PHAU is excited to fight to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, while fighting for those who have been discriminated against.