Adolescents experience unique challenges and problems regarding sexual reproductive health and rights. These problems differ from the issues that adults have, or that may have existed among previous generations.
UNAIDS data from 2017 reports that most new HIV infections in Uganda are occurring among young people aged 17-24, and adolescent girls and young women in particular are disproportionately affected. In 2017, Uganda reported 4,500 new HIV infections among people aged 15 and older, and 22% of these were adolescents and young women (aged 15-24 years) (Uganda HIV/AIDS Country Progress Report, 2017, pg. 12).
This, along with other issues like teenage pregnancy, early marriages, birth complications and abortions, and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) have created an environment where Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) are a priority population in stopping the spread of HIV in Uganda. Engaging male adolescents and young men is also a key intervention. Therefore, it is crucial that adolescents receive adequate and accessible information about these issues because they have high impact on their future and present lives.
In response to these emerging issues, OCE in partnership with Rural Action Community Based Organisation (RACOBAO) and receiving support from FUG-Sweden designed an intervention to complement the government’s efforts in reaching out to more adolescents with HIV/AIDS counseling, testing, and adherence to treatment messages. OCE runs this program in Lyantonde Town Council, Lyantonde Rural, Kaliiro, and Kinuuka sub-counties.
Through these interventions:
- 04 school health clubs have been supported with traditional musical instruments to enable them disseminate HIV/AIDS information to fellow adolescents through music, dance, and drama. Out of school adolescents were also reached through the formation of Sub County Adolescent AIDS Prevention and support Clubs. We have also conducted education sessions on HIV/AIDS and facilitated interface meeting between adolescent peer leaders & health service providers for sharing experiences, life skills, and to pave the way to address challenges affecting adolescent friendly service delivery.
- 2,512 adolescents aged 10-19 have accessed HIV counseling and testing services due to intensified sensitization campaigns. 2,913 adolescents (10-19 years) have been reached with information on HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling, & sexual reproductive and health rights (SRHR).
- 03 health facilities were evaluated on the quality and accessibility of their adolescent health services through community score card meetings. These meetings were conducted leading to self-assessments by health service providers and joint action planning towards promotion of adolescent friendly services. Both health workers and adolescent peer leaders have since reported improvement in the quality of health services and an increase in the number of adolescents visiting health facilities for their services.
- 30 senior women/ men teachers, matrons, and school nurses were trained to offer adolescent friendly services in both primary and secondary schools. The training increased their skills & knowledge on handling and addressing adolescent issues.
- 600 members from 20 functional VSLAs have been mobilized, trained, & supported since 2018. This has improved saving culture, access to short term loans for school fees payments, & ART adherence among adolescent children in care.
OCE, with support from Farmaceuter utan Gränser (FUG) – Sweden, piloted an HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment model for key populations (such as female sex workers aged 15-24, LGBT individuals, and truck drivers) in Lyantonde from border districts along the main highways connecting Rwanda and Uganda. These areas have a considerably higher HIV/AIDS prevalence than the general public. The goal of this Rwanda – Uganda cross-border HIV/AIDS (RUHP) pilot project was aimed at establishing a prevention and treatment model that utilised peer mentors for satisfactory access to HIV and AIDS prevention services among the key populations. Preliminary reports from health centers suggest that this peer-to-peer model used by OCE has proven to be an effective way of reaching out to key populations.
This pilot project gave rise to a three year continuation cross border project, scheduled to begin March 2020.
This is a continuation of a project that began in 2017, intending to supply safe drinking water to all students in Lyantonde. So far, 06 schools have received water purifiers for learners, which means over 2000 children now have access to clean drinking water. These schools have since reported reduced incidences of water-borne related illnesses among learners.
A second aspect of this program is to sensitize schools and adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene. Over 120 adolescent girls from 06 Primary schools received training on Re-Usable Menstrual PadS (RUMPS) and were supported with materials to make their own. These trainings also included prevention messages against HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies to ensure that these learners remain in school and complete their education.
This project strives to contribute to the goal of ending preventable child deaths and achieving a resilient and healthy generation by 2030. Since the beginning of this intervention in November 2019, 1,295 pupils from 03 primary schools have been equipped with knowledge and skills on good WASH practices, with great emphasis on hand washing through activities and demonstrations. This is an ongoing project that will be continued throughout 2020 when schools open for first term. It is being implemented through volunteering and utilizing a partnership with Peace Corps Uganda through a Community Health Specialist volunteer- Thomas.