|Joanne Offer is in Uganda, where the International Rescue Committee is working with Ugandan communities affected by conflict as well as refugees from neighboring Sudan. Read all her latest posts here.
I meet Namoe Helen at ante-natal class. She’s pregnant with her second child and has come to St Pius Kidepo health center in Moroto district for a check up. Pregnant women can also get tested for HIV as part of IRC’s work to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.Namoe Helen says, “I’ve been tested for HIV as a precaution and I’m negative. It’s good to be tested because the virus is becoming very widespread; it’s not just affecting town people, it’s in the villages too.”
Examining Namoe Helen is sister Marygoretti, who’s been running the antenatal clinic for the past few months. Marygoretti is originally from eastern Uganda and was shocked by the conditions in Karamoja.
She says, “It’s so different here. When you look at the living conditions, you see it’s very harsh. Poor sanitation is a big problem and most of the health conditions are related to this. Nutrition is also a big problem. This year, nothing has grown. But the women here get food rations to help them during pregnancy.”
Soon, barefooted, Namoe Helen is beginning her long walk home. It will take her an hour. Life can be hard for mothers-to-be here in Karamoja.
Posts Tagged ‘HIV/AIDS’
Posted by Joanne Offer on 14 August, 2008
Posted by The IRC on 15 May, 2008
A drama group performs a short play in Rupa sub-county entitled “Protect Yourself: Use a Condom.” Photo: The IRC
|Uganda’s northeastern Karamoja region is set apart from the rest of the country, both by geography and by the traditions of its inhabitants, most of whom are semi-nomadic livestock herders. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, this isolation kept Karamoja safe from the HIV/AIDS epidemic.Because HIV/AIDS is still relatively new to the region, knowledge and attitudes about the disease lag behind the rest of the country.
The spread of HIV/AIDS within Karamoja is closely related to the frequency of rape during violent cattle-raiding among the region’s different clans, as well as during courtship.
Another contributing factor is the still-common practice of bride inheritance, in which newly widowed women are taken as wives by a male member of their deceased husband’s family. Where a widow has been infected with HIV by her husband there is a risk that she in turn will unknowingly infect her new husband.
To counter these practices, the IRC provides education and counseling to rape survivors and offers community education programs about the effects of rape and violence against women.
The IRC also sponsors community gatherings where drama groups perform plays and songs with HIV-related educational themes.
“The performances convey to male audiences that rape and abuse of women are flatly unacceptable,” says IRC HIV/AIDS program officer Drametu Jimmy.
The performers in the dramas act out of their own life experience – many are HIV-infected themselves.
“I do this to soften the hearts in the community,” said Amuge Patricia, a member of a drama group based in Kotido district. “I want them to know that being infected does not make you cursed or a monster.”
Read the full story, by IRC’s Thomas Bohnett, here.