News / Africa

    Uganda's Soaring HIV Infection Rate Linked to Infidelity

    Officials say HIV/AIDS infection rate is going up mainly because more Ugandans are having multiple sex partners, (File photo).
    Officials say HIV/AIDS infection rate is going up mainly because more Ugandans are having multiple sex partners, (File photo).
    HIV activists are struggling to find ways to address one of Uganda's biggest health crises: soaring HIV infections among couples, caused largely by cheating spouses.  The subject can be too politically and culturally sensitive to discuss.

    The face of Uganda’s AIDS epidemic is changing.  In the 1990s, the country brought down its infection rate dramatically with a campaign advocating ABC - abstinence, being faithful and condoms. The government urged people to get off the so-called “sexual network” and into stable, committed relationships, which were considered safe.

    But that is no longer true.  According to the results of a national survey released last year, more than 40 percent of new infections are happening among married couples.

    Sandra Kyagaba works with the National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS.  She said more than half the women who come to them are married.

    “Most of them when they come, they will share with you and say, ‘I contracted HIV from my husband, [and] I was really faithful.’  That means the husband was not faithful," she explained. "It’s really very common here.”

    The issue of infidelity was thrust into the limelight recently by a billboard in downtown Kampala.  Put up by the U.S.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, or AHF, it read, “Cheating?  Use a condom.  Cheated on?  Get tested.”

    AHF’s Omonigho Ufomata says the organization is prepared to be blunt if it will help people protect themselves and their partners. “We are trying to drive at the heart of what’s raising infection rates in Uganda, and also other places all across the world, actually.  So we’re taking a pragmatic and practical approach," Ufomata stated. "Saying that people stray outside of relationships.  It’s not about judgment, it’s not about trying to change that behavior or criticize it, but simply that people protect themselves and protect their partners.”

    But the billboard outraged many Ugandans, who saw it as condoning infidelity.  Religious leaders protested, and the government-run Uganda AIDS Commission ordered AHF to take it down, telling the media the billboard was spreading the “wrong message.”  Organizations should instead be advocating fidelity, said the commission’s director.

    The billboard has since been removed, but a number of activists, including Kyagaba, say its message was simply realistic.  Infidelity is ingrained in Ugandan culture, she said, and efforts to bring down infection rates must take that into account.

    “Some cultures think that having more than one wife is a prestige, is being big in manhood, and all that. So even if I don’t tell you to go and cheat, I know you are going to do it.  It’s common in Africa.  So it’s better you have that information within you that if you are going to cheat on me, or have someone else, then it’s better you use a condom,” Kyagaba said.

    The only way to fight the epidemic, she said, is for Ugandans to speak honestly about their behavior - something that has not been happening enough.

    “With HIV, the communication has to change.  Once you communicate in abstracts by beating bushes, then someone won’t get the message.  Sometimes you need to be direct for someone to get the message right,” noted Kyagaba.

    With infection rates rising for the first time in 20 years, nearly everyone in Uganda agrees that something needs to change.  But activists and the government have yet to agree on what.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.