Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Uganda: Campaigns tackle "the complexity of sexuality"

[Seems to IRMA that microbicides could be useful tool in relationships, where condoms are seldomly used. What are your thoughts on "zero-grazing", "Go Red for Fidelity", "True Manhood" and other campaigns?]

From UN Integrated Regional Information Networks - June 22, 2009

KAMPALA, 22 June 2009 (PlusNews) - 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."

Since February 2009, billboards, television and radio spots, wristbands and viral text messages have encouraged Ugandans to be 'Reliable, Exceptional and Dependable'. The campaign seeks 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 the factors like alcohol abuse and transactional sex that puts them at high risk.

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