An NNN-New Vision Special report by John Thawite

KASESE, WESTERN UGANDA, April 20 — Most women in Kasese district in western Uganda don’t use the female condom because they say it is noisy and hence inconveniences them during sex, a female district councillor says.

“The women say it makes a lot of noise and interferes with their concentration,” Rehema Aryema, the district councillor for Nyamwamba Division in Kasese Municipality said recently.

Aryema, who is also a member of the National Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (NACWOLA), made the revelations at a meeting convened by the Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS.

“The women say the female condom should be modified so that it can be worn like a G-string to keep it firmly in place,” she said.

Aryema also said the influx of Congolese people along the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border near here, was straining the HIV services meant for Ugandans in Kasese and could be partly contributing to the spread of the infections in the district.

“We often suffer stock-outs because the demand is sometimes more than the supply,” she noted.

Aryema said it was difficult to truck the HIV-infected Congolese patients because after getting services in Uganda, they disappeared back into their country only to cross into Uganda to consume drugs meant for Ugandan citizens.

In his report, Dr. Baseka gave an impression that the HIV scourge was on the decline in the district. According to the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey (UAIS) of 2011, the HIV prevalence in Mid-Western Uganda in which Kasese falls is 8.2 per cent, above the national one of 7.3 per cent.

However, Aryema challenged the report findings and sounded a need for a proper mapping about the spread of the disease.

“Two years ago we carried VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing) in the mountains of Mahango and we found nobody positive. When we returned a year later and tested one positive. But on going back recently, we tested 14 people positive,” she said.

“This means that the disease is spreading even in the areas where it was not two years ago.”

A member of the parliamentary committee wanted to know how the district was handling the issue of sex workers and whether they were being sensitized about how to safeguard themselves against the disease.

Dr. Baseka told the members of the committee that the uniformed personnel and sex workers in the district were always too mobile to mobilise them for HIV services and called for more health services within the uniformed forces to ensure follow-up action.

“Stigma is also a major challenge. Most of the HIV-positives prefer to go out of the district for medication and those from outside seek services here because they do not wish to be known (as being HIV-positive) in their communities,” Baseka said.

“The HIV prevalence is high among the communities living in the fishing villages and in towns especially Hima, Kasese Municipality and Mpondwe/Lhubiriha town council,” Baseka said.

The District Secretary for Finance, Planning and Administration, Mike Asiimwe Mbakania, faulted government for watching on as Ugandans, especially the youth, engaged in life-threatening behaviour such the consumption of weed, mairungi and alcohol which had flooded the market unchecked.

An MP on the committee attacked some politicians, alleging that they encouraged the growing of narcotic plants like Mairungi and Marijuana for fear of losing votes.

Committee Chairperson Sara Kayagi Netalisire said her team was on a countrywide familiarization tour to learn more about the HIV situation on the ground. “We are moving around the districts to assess if the work being done in Parliament is collaborating with the actual conditions on the ground,” the MP said.

“The people living with the HIV are increasingly looking better and therefore no longer as scary as they used to be in the 1980s and the 1990s. People are now more scared of malaria, TB, pressure and other diseases than HIV and AIDS since the ARVs are available to extend their lives,” Kayagi said.

However, she expressed concern at the big number of commercial sex workers the committee had noticed swarming around truck drivers in Hima town as the legislators drove through on Thursday night enroute to Kasese.

The parliamentary committee also visited the Uganda side of the Uganda-DRC border market at Mpondwe Customs checkpoint to familiarize themselves with the possible impact cross-border activities including trade on the spread of HIV.

The committee donated a carton of male condoms to the office of the truck drivers. Commenting on the multitudes of people and trucks crossing the border, several MPs said the area needed special HIV services, including a fulltime post for the supply of condoms at the border.



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