On February 25th, 2022, the Uganda Youth and Adolescents’ Health Forum (UYHAF) team leader, Mwesigye Patrick, met 15 young people at the adolescent health clinic in Mbale and discussed issues around safe motherhood, personal hygiene, STI and STD prevention, and building self-confidence.

The meeting brought together young mothers, pregnant teenage girls, and adolescent girls and boys who shared their life experiences and the challenges they face in terms of accessing SRHR services and information, antenatal care, immunization services, and contraception.

They revealed during the discussion that most government health facilities in the neighborhood lack medicine, that health professionals neglect women, especially if they are pregnant, and that the facilities have poor hygiene.

“Every time you go to the health center, especially the health center III’s, they tell you there is no medicine and the best they can do is prescribe drugs for you to buy in the pharmacy, but we don’t always have the money,” said Namono, a young mother.

Shamira, a pregnant adolescent, claims there are many things she doesn’t understand about pregnancy and how to care for it.

“I got pregnant when I was young, and no one has really talked to me about it, not even my mother, because we fell out after I got pregnant.” When I go to the health centers for antenatal appointments, there are always a lot of people, and the time allocated to me is limited because of the large crowds and the nurses are always busy, she explained.

She also claims that most of them are afraid of opening up to health staff, particularly when it comes to illnesses because they are constantly yelled at, which scares them and causes them to remain silent. While Brenda, an adolescent girl, says that starting a conversation about contraception, especially family planning, is hard.

“You have to think twice before you begin talking about using condoms or going for FP methods because many people have a way of looking at you, even the health workers who are supposed to help us.” She stated

In response to some of the concerns mentioned, Patrick urged them to continue seeking health services despite the obstacles.

“I agree with you on most of the points raised, but you won’t have to stay at home if your health isn’t up to par. You must continue to go there; if one health professional is not helpful, switch to another; if all of them are unfriendly, find another health facility because, at the end of the day, you require these services,” Patrick explained.

He urged pregnant young girls to attend antenatal care visits as often as possible to maintain their health and that of their unborn child, as well as to avoid difficulties during labor and delivery.

Patrick further told them that everyone has the right to improved health and that they should be able to get any SRHR services they want without fear of stigma or discrimination.

During the meeting, he encouraged them to make use of the UYAHF’s SUBIHELPLINE, a toll-free line to seek free SRHR information on FP, HIV/STD, antenatal and post-natal care, report cases of SGBV, and get referrals, noting that this will help reduce the challenges of unfriendly health workers, stigma and having to move long distances.

At the end of the meeting, the group was toured around the adolescent health clinic, offered free medical services, including STI testing, and given free deworming services.