Mbarara Uganda, 5th Dcember 2016
Patrick Mwesigye Sewa
Our Team Lead Patrick Mwesigye Sewa making opening remarks at the Condom Party Youth Dialogue on World AIDS 2016
Yesterday, as the world came together to commemorate the 2016 World AIDS Day, at Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum, (UYAHF), we could not hold back. We took it upon ourselves to show our continued support and commitment to wiping out the HIV epidemic through demonstrating innovative HIV prevention interventions that were aimed to encourage and attract young people to live responsible sexual lives that are less risky to HIV infection and spread.
Some of the young people who attended the event hold pluck cards with messages in support of condom use and breaking the stigma and barriers surrounding condom use.
We went on ground to Mbarara Municipality, in Mbarara District, western Uganda where we engaged locals in interactive and fun filled activities conducted under the #CondomParty brand a project under our #Pulaniki Campaign.
Young people at the dialogue enjoying an ice breaker while others listen to the deliberations and discussions during the dialogue.
The condom party was an idea that we sat and thought through as a very practical intervention strategy that we could use to speak to the language and tune that many young people listen to and hence communicate a message of breakin the condom stigma and barriers that affect young people from using condoms correctly and consistently to prevent HIV and STI infection as well as unwanted pregnancies.
So, we were set to break the condom stigma and demonstrate to the public that using condoms is #Cool, #fancy and #romantic especially, when you are not sure of the HIV status of the person you’re having sex with and when you’re not ready for pregnancy and child birth.
The day started with a dialogue at Reproductive Health Uganda which attracted about 100 young people. The dialogue held in a live wire format was an open and free space for young people to share experiences and challenges, learn and make sincere honest and sincere arguments, reflections and recommendations that they can champion in a bid to support the UNAIDS target of 90 90 90 by 2030. The topical discussion of the dialogue was; “Young People Living Responsible Lives free from HIV infection, stigma and discrimination”
Dennis a youth worker from Reproductive Health Uganda Clinic facilitating the dialogue as young people watched on and contributed to the discussions.
Young people were kind enough and freely opened up, by sharing their experience, asking questions, commenting on issues being discussed among other things. Speaker after speaker they noted that; poverty, peer pressure, alcohol and substance abuse, cross-generational sex, multiple sexual partners, school dropouts, sexual violence and other human rights violations are some of the major causes that have fueled the HIV infection especially among the young generation.
Other young people were quoted saying that the health seeking environment is very poor and characterized by unfriendly health service providers, and over congestion. Access to HIV services and information was also highlighted to be a challenges as sometimes they have to trek long distances seeking services like HIV testing, counseling, treatment and care and sometimes health facilities lack adequate supply of condoms.
Participants at the dialogue sharing their views, perspectives and asking questions about the topical discussion.
Young people living with HIV sighted HIV related stigma and discrimination as a major barrier for positive living and throughout the dialogue, it was clear that the public lacks adequate knowledge on key interventions that can scale down the HIV infections and related deaths.
“The government should pass a law to tattoo on the forehead of every person diagnosed with HIV”, noted one of the participants. “We should stop giving treatment to HIV positive people so they can all die and we pave way for an HIV free world”, noted another participant.
Another participant was also quoted saying; “Condoms cause cancer, they have been brought to succumb the African to cancer, while another participant noted that the condom lubricants in a long run cause infertility. “Women living with HIV should be sterilized so they don’t engage in child bearing and that way we shall reduce mother to child transmission”, noted another participant. “Women who wear miniskirts, should be punished by the public because they entice men and draw our minds into sexual feelings hence increasing our risk to HIV “also quoted another male participants.
This wrong information kept us thinking how misinformed the public is and how such wrong information is fueling stigma and discrimination, human rights violations, increased HIV infection, HIV related deaths among other challenges.
The dialogue was very timely and it’s for reasons of breaking such stigma, barriers and misinformation that the dialogue was organized. A team of well informed uyahf peer educators and health services providers and as well as counselors from Reproductive Health Uganda Mbarara responded to some of the above issues and made sure that correct information was given to the participants to demystify all the myths that the participants had. Some of the key recommendations that emanated from the dialogue was, the commitment by young people to test and know their HIV status, the sexually active young people committed to using condoms correctly and consistently and all participants committed to fighting cross generational sex, reducing HIV related stigma and discrimination as well as reducing multiple sexual partners and sticking to one partner.
Participants participating and show casing knowledge in condom demonstration to demonstrate correct use
After the dialogue, we took the #CondomParty vibez to the #Mbarara streets through a #CondomPart Street Flash Mob where we used edutainment and infotainment to educate the Mbarara Municipality street dwellers with information on HIV prevention through correct and consistent condom use. Our peer educators entertained the street dwellers through music and dance and distributed over 100,000 pieces of condoms to over 3000 people that we met directly and indirectly. We broke the stigma, demystified myths and demonstrated how a fancy, cool and simple using condom is, and we emphasized the fact that young people should not only use condoms correctly and consistently but also they must stock and have enough condom on them all the time.
UYAHF peer educators entertaining street dwellers in a hot steps dance moves while others distributed condoms
We matched, danced and distributed condoms along 5 streets within the town and we were able to reach out to different categories of people including market vendors, boda boda riders, builders/foremen on site and on road contraction spots, carpenters, mechanics, taxi, bus and truck drivers, gamblers from spots betting kiosks, hotel and shop operators, sex workers among other people.
The CondomParty Street Flash mob where our peer educators pulled down hot dance moved while others distributed condoms in a move to break the stigma on condom use.
In the night as we wand up our day, we flocked one of the biggest and most happening night club in town, known as the Nicoz Club. We rocked this clubs also famous for attracting the biggest number of sex workers in town. We were warmly welcomed by the club management and our peer educators entertained the socialites with music, dance and comedy, and also educated them on restocking condoms and using them correctly and consistently as well as demystifying myths and misconceptions and the stigma and barriers that affect condom use. In the night club, an extra 20,000 pieces of condoms were distributed and we made sure that everyone who was in club during then got his or her at least a minimum of a box of condoms free of charge.
NICOZ Pub a happening night club in Mbarara where we wond up day with our young people entertaining the clients with music dance and educative messages on HIV prevention
One after one, Mbarara’s night socialites welcomed the #CondomParty move and thanked Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum team for coming up with such an innovative strategy of bringing these life saving gadgets closer to those most in need. The club management also invited us again and promised more support and much more massive mobilizationthe next time we go there. Mr. Nelson the club manager was quoted saying that, this has been a great opportunity for our company to give back to our clients and to sensitize them on the need to prevent them from HIV by using condoms correctly and consistently.