On 11th October 2022, Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum (UYAHF) kicked off a weekly community dialogue on HIV/STI/GBV/SRHR services in the northern division of Mbale city.

The dialogues, which were supported by UGANET with funding from the Global Fund, aim to strengthen the capacity of community structures to advocate for SRHR, HIV, STI, and GBV service delivery among young people and are being implemented in the areas of Nkoma, Busajabwankuba, Gangama, Namakwekwe, and Mission, among others.

Namonyo Franco, the in charge of the UYAHF Adolescent Health Clinic and the project lead, noted that the dialogues involve moving to different communities and holding sessions with young people with a focus on HIV prevention, STIs, GBV, knowledge sharing on condom use and practical sessions on its usage, SGBV screening, and referral, among others.

“We work in the suburbs of Mbale city, with the help of several area health workers and village health teams, to meet with young people and teach them the key aspects of SRHR, train them to be changemakers, and pass on the information and knowledge to their peers,” Franco explained.

Kairanya Edith, a peer facilitator, explained that many of the young people are knowledgeable about condoms, especially male condoms, but are shy to talk about them on top of being unfamiliar with how to use them.

“During the meetings, we hold practical sessions on things like condom use, among others, but we noticed that most young people, especially the girls, feel shy to even hold condoms.” “They are also not aware of the female condoms,” she noted.

According to Edith, the shyness driven by stigma in the community greatly puts the lives of adolescents at great risk of HIV, STDs, and STIs.

Nabifo Esther, a young mother, shared that people are often referred to as prostitutes when they are seen holding a condom, and a man or boyfriend can beat them up if by any chance, they find them with one.

Sharing experiences on gender-based violence, Nandudu Prima explained that in the community they take a beating by a man as normal, and many women are not bothered about reporting it.

“In many occasions when you try to intercept a fight or quarrel, the women will tell you it is their issue with the husband and you are less concerned” Nandudu added.

It was also noted that young people are commonly infected with STIs and UTIs because of peer pressure and believe that sex without a condom is more enjoyable and fun.

“Most of our boyfriends say they cannot use condoms and when as a girl you tell them you cannot have sex with them, they force themselves on you and at the end tell you that sex is not sweet with a condom” Abigail, a student explained during a dialogue in Nkoma.

She acknowledged that the training has changed her perception on condoms and enlightened her on the risk girls put themselves through when they have unprotected sex. Abigail says she is going to share the knowledge with her peers at school and in her community so that girls learn to say no to sex without protection to prevent the risks of HIV and other infections.

Following the series of sessions in several suburbs, over 169 participants were screened for GBV, with 89% reported in Namakwekwe, 79 took on family planning methods with 72 given (oral quick), 15 and 6 boxes of male and female condoms distributed respectively among others.