A young medical doctor from Uganda was recently recognized for her work treating AIDS patients. Twenty-six year old Dr. Julian Atim was in Boston, Massachusetts, for an award from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
VOA English to Africa Service reporter Angel Tabe spoke with Dr. Atim, who described the health scenario in conflict-torn northern Uganda. “There have been high rates of communicable diseases…poor sanitation because of overcrowding… coupled with animals living in proximity with people…poor drainage, epidemics every six months, rape and defilement at a peak.… HIV/AIDS in northern Uganda is twice that of other regions…the lack of healthcare workers...child labor…malnutrition.”
Dr. Atim says this situation is so bad for women and children that she devotes time to women, sensitizing them how to recognize important signs. “About 70 percent of women in northern Uganda have gynecological problems ranging from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), to infertility, cancer of the cervix, HIV/AIDS. So we’ve been trying to empower them through health education, how they can avoid it…to know their rights to treatment and to say no.” Dr. Atim says Africa’s effort to combat AIDS is ignoring certain vital fronts, thus making it a losing battle.
Her statistics say most children do not have access to prevention services. “For long, we’ve been having focus on the drugs, forgetting the powerhouse of health care professionals who bring the services needed for both prevention and treatment…. We need to attack it from all angles to have a better picture of it all.” She also stresses the need for women’s economic empowerment. “(Often) Women are exposed to sexual violence, having [nothing to] say [about it] because they are economically below men. But when they are given economic independence, they will access health care like any other human being, take care of the family, which includes their children, live better lives.”