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Archive for June 24th, 2009

Seeing red over infidelity – reflect the complexity of sexual relations

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2009

UGANDA: Campaigns tackle “the complexity of sexuality

Photo: Zoe Flood/IRIN
Seeing red over infidelity

KAMPALA, – New HIV prevention campaigns in Uganda are beginning to reflect the complexity of sexual relations, but experts warn they constitute only a small first step.

“Go Red for Fidelity” is one approach; it seeks to encourage faithfulness within marriage or long-term relationships, where over 40 percent of new infections reportedly occur.

“The Go Red campaign highlights the complexity of adult sexuality, which is something we haven’t really approached before,” said Cathy Watson, executive director of the Straight Talk Foundation, a local NGO that produces mass media messages on HIV for young people.

Uganda’s much-lauded prevention campaign in the 1990s cut HIV prevalence in the adult population from about 18 percent to roughly six percent in 2000. But over the past few years prevalence has begun to creep up again, to around 6.4 percent.

A UNAIDS Modes of Transmission survey completed in 2008 found that 43 percent of new HIV infections in Uganda occurred in monogamous relationships, highlighting the need for prevention messages to shift from the traditional target of unmarried youth.

That is the point of “Go Red”, according to Monica Ariyo Rukundo, the spokesperson for Program for Accessible Health, Communication and Education (PACE), which runs the campaign in conjunction with the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC).

“After a strong emphasis on ‘zero-grazing’ [a campaign promoting faithfulness to one sexual partner] in the 1990s, the focus changed; it stopped being the marrieds,” Rukundo said. “This campaign is trying to encourage marriage and promote mutual faithfulness among 25-to-45 year-olds.”

''It’s like continuing to mop the floor while the tap is still flowing''

Since February 2009, billboards, television and radio spots, wristbands and viral text messages have encouraged Ugandans to be ‘Reliable, Exceptional and Dependable’.The campaignseeks to “create a movement of passionate fidelity ambassadors” who identify themselves by wearing a splash of red “as a spark to ignite a conversation”, the web site says.

Other recent public awareness programmes have also tried to deal with the more complex aspects of HIV transmission: an earlier PACE campaign focused on curbing cross-generational sex, while True Manhood, launched in June by local NGO, Young People Empowered and Healthy (YEAH), targets young men and thefactorslike alcohol abuse and transactional sex that puts them athigh risk.

Campaigns need to go further

But according to Watson, the new campaigns are “just the beginning of a much larger conversation”.

They are, for instance, silent on polygamous marriages, despite the UAC reporting that one in three Ugandan women is in a polygamous union.

“If you are entering a polygamous union as the second or third wife, do you insist that both the husband and first and second wife test?” said Watson. “It would be great to have public campaigns addressing it.”

“There should be a different twist to the message,” noted Professor David Serwadda, dean of the School of Public Health at Kampala’s Makerere University. “A woman or man can be faithful, yet still be a great risk from their partner.”

“We should move towards testing and counselling couples to prevent infection within families,” he added.

And some are still sceptical about a campaign that encourages fidelity in a society where multiple sexual partnerships are so widely accepted.

Aaron Ocen, a 23-year-old “boda boda” (motorcycle taxi) driver in Kampala, remains unconvinced by the Go Redmessage: “There will always be people who cannot be faithful, they will not be stopped by this,” he said.

Bringing prevention back to the fore

In the recent past prevention campaigns have tended to take a back seat; the Modes of Transmission study found that two-thirds of HIV/AIDS funding in Uganda was spent ontreatment and care initiatives.

Leonard Okello, head of the international HIV team for the anti-poverty NGO, ActionAid, warned that unless the government invested in more effective prevention programmes, it was unlikely that prevalence would drop.

“We need to start thinking differently about HIV in order to reduce prevalence and minimise the pandemic’s impact,” he said. “Otherwise it is like continuing to mop the floor while the tap is still flowing.”

zf/kr/oa source.www.irinnews.org

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Patients seek treatment when their immune systems are already severely compromised

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2009

UGANDA: Patients not diagnosed early enough – study

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN
Patients seek treatment when their immune systems are already severely compromised

NAIROBI, – About 40 percent of HIV-positive Ugandan patients are already ill or displaying symptoms of AIDS when they are diagnosed, a new study in the latest issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes has found.

The study, conducted by western Uganda’s Mbarara University Teaching Hospital, noted that more than one-third of the 2,311 respondents were at World Health Organization disease stages three or four, when the immune system has already been severely damaged by HIV.

Lower education levels, unemployment, living in crowded households, being unmarried, and lack of spousal HIV status disclosure were associated with late presentation. On the other hand, being pregnant, having young children, and consuming alcohol in the prior year were associated with early presentation.

The authors called for targeted public health interventions to facilitate earlier entry into HIV care, as well as more research to determine whether late presentation was due to delays in testing or delays in accessing care.

More than 130,000 Ugandans are enrolled on the government’s free antiretroviral programme, but more than 250,000 people are estimated to need treatment.

kr/oa source.www.irinnews.org

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Five million hectares of forest in 1990, but only 3.5 million hectares remained by 2005

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2009

UGANDA: Environmentalists point to worrying pace of deforestation

Photo: Euan Denholm/IRIN
The terrain in northeastern Uganda: The country could lose most of its tree cover in about 40 years unless measures are quickly taken to reverse the situation – file photo

KAMPALA, – Uganda has lost nearly a third of its forests in the last two decades and could lose most of its tree cover in about 40 years unless measures are quickly taken to reverse the situation, environmentalists have said.

“Climate change does not happen in isolation… It interacts with existing problems and challenges – notably deforestation, soil degradation, declining food security, declining fish stocks – and makes them worse,” said Frank Mulamuzi, environmental advocate and executive director of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE).

Uganda had more than five million hectares of forest in 1990, but only 3.5 million hectares remained by 2005. “If deforestation continues at the present rate, Uganda will have lost all its forested land by 2050,” the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) warned in its State of the Environment for Uganda 2008 report published in mid-June.

It attributed the rapid rate of deforestation to expanding farmland, rapid population growth and increased urbanization.

“Water resources will disappear, water catchments areas will dwindle, agricultural productivity will suffer and livelihoods will be affected tremendously,” Annet Nakyeyune, an environmentalist at Makerere University, told IRIN.

The effects, she said, would be felt across many social sectors including health “because diseases are going to increase”. There would not be enough energy; habitats for some animals would disappear, while some species would either migrate or become extinct.


Photo: Vincent Mayanja/IRIN
Tree planting in northern Uganda: The country had more than five million hectares of forest in 1990, but only 3.5 million hectares remained by 2005 – file photo

Who will suffer most?

The main victims, however, would be farmers and the poorest of the poor since desertification would “tamper with the countrys food security because rainfall will be erratic, floods rampant and the poor who have reclaimed wetlands [will be unable] to raise the ground of their homesteads”.

NEMA Executive Director Aryamanya Mugisha said Uganda would suffer dire environmental effects if no immediate remedial measures are put in place.

“In 41 years, if the current rate of deforestation continues, the per capita forest cover will be zero because already we are tending towards desertification-like conditions,” he said.

Mugisha told IRIN the rate of deforestation was greatest outside protected areas, currently estimated at 698. These are mainly gazetted forest reserves.

Only 10 percent of Uganda’s population has access to electricity, while the rest use biomass as a source of energy, especially firewood for cooking.

“Because 89 percent of rural Ugandans rely on burning firewood for cooking, deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate,” NEMA said.

''Water resources will disappear, water catchments areas will dwindle, agricultural productivity will suffer and livelihoods will be affected tremendously''

High birth rate

The situation, it added, has been worsened by Ugandas high population growth which is currently 3.2 percent per annum, with high fertility rates of seven children per woman. This high growth rate has resulted in the expansion of built-up areas, particularly around Kampala.

Areas surrounding the capital have lost more than 78 percent of their forestland since 1990, and people are migrating out of the increasingly crowded city into neighbouring districts.

“It is quite an alarming development and government and NEMA require that urgent measures be taken to mobilize the population for the conservation of the present forest resources through afforestation and reforestation, [and] to educate the population about a degraded environment and its consequences,” NAPEs Mulamuzi said.

vm/eo/cb source.www.irinnews.org

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Parents parade wounds in Court protest

Posted by African Press International on June 24, 2009

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Protesters with fake blood stains have urged the Family Court to protect kids from abusive parents.



A group of “blood-stained” and bandaged parents paraded at NSW Parliament House today, calling on the Family Court to stop ordering children to see abusive parents.

With arms in fake slings, artificially bruised faces and broken dolls in prams, about 30 mums, dads and grandparents took part in the “Bandage Parade” hoping to highlight the danger of giving unsupervised custody of children to abusive parents after separation.

“We have a systemic failure when more than 15,000 Australian children are ordered into ongoing contact with parents the court itself has deemed violent and abusive,” National Council for Children Post-Separation (NCCPS) spokeswoman Barbara Biggs said.

“This has happened because of hastily written shared-parenting laws and the Family Court turning a blind eye to abuse when it comes to its duty of care for Australian children.”
Ms Biggs also said parents were forced to conceal claims that their child was being abused, for fear of losing custody of their children.
“If you can’t prove (abuse) beyond reasonable doubt, then you have to pay the court costs and risk losing custody of the child because you are deemed a dangerous parent for poisoning your child against the father or mother,” she told reporters.
“You have to make a choice – agree to some custody with an abusive ex-partner or risk losing custody. What do you do?”

One mother, who took out an apprehended violence order against her ex-husband for abusing her in front of their four-year-old daughter, said she was at a loss to explain why her daughter was still forced to see her father.

“They (the court) gave us a child psychologist expert that only spent 20 minutes alone with my daughter and she was too frightened to say anything,” she told AAP.

“I don’t see how it’s in the best interests of my daughter. She’s really frightened of him.”

Ms Biggs said NCCPS would continue marching until December, when the family law would be reviewed.

“We are a group who care about the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of our children and until that is part of family law – not the parents’ right to access their children – we will continue to have these problems,” she said.

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