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#WhatWomenWant

Kyendikuwa Allen

“If it’s not on its not safe” is one of the great media messages used by the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG)
as a way of promoting condom use among young people. It is very important to
situate HIV prevention messages within a youth context to limit excuses like
“sweets are not eaten in wrappers” or “condoms are too small for us to use”. Factors
like gender based violence (GBV) resulting from an inferiority complex makes
many adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) more exposed to HIV infection. These
issues created my desire to find out what works well in preventing HIV:

For a young mother of twins like Mariam who was born with HIV, formal education was the only priority until her
desire to have a family surfaced. Mariam met her HIV negative partner, Francis,
at university and when the time came for her to conceive, she was quick to take
him to her ART access clinic. For Mariam, it was the best choice because of the
clinic’s youth corner with very youth friendly services and a one stop center
for anti-retroviral therapy (ART), ante-natal care (ANC), post-natal care (PNC)
and GBV services. Francis was given consistent and comprehensive answers for
each question he had, and was counseled very well before he started on
pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). After conception, Mariam attended all the
required ANC visits while being supported by Francis until the day she gave
birth to her beautiful daughters, who were given post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
immediately after birth.  The clinic was very successful at meeting Mariam’s demands and her need to keep the rest of
her family HIV free.

Just like Mariam, many adolescent girls and young women know that what works for AGYW includes media campaigns
and adolescent-friendly sections in health care facilities. These corners are
where young women can access the health services they need such as
contraception, GBV care and general sexual and reproductive health (SRH)
services. They help promote information acquisition and provide support to curb
the rates of new HIV infections for AGYW.

I believe that the same way we water seedlings to produce the best fruits, AGYW should be constantly mentored
to support empowerment and to improve their knowledge of HIV prevention. My own
mentor, Dr. Sabrina Kitaka, supported me to analyze situations. She helped show
me that there are better avenues with reduced risk of HIV infection to acquire things
like my basic needs and social norms like nice phones, shoes etc. She helped me
see my power to say NO to situations that make me uncomfortable, and improved
my knowledge on rights and responsibility to uphold them.

While focusing on UNAIDS’ 2016 guidance on HIV prevention in the #WhatWomenWant working group, I realized that
in addition to the above, we also need the following to make the guidance work:
male involvement in changing the norms around masculinity that comes from a
community level, peer to peer messaging, and meaningful involvement of girls
especially on leadership boards and service provision. This will create full
ownership for programs and support true dedication to a healthy society.