Birds, bees, and STDs: Lorna talks HIV/AIDS with Kivule Village
Talk to anyone on the streets of Uganda. Most likely, they have seen the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS.
In a country ravaged by HIV, it can be fatal to avoid the topic of sex. But in many rural communities in Uganda, sex remains a taboo subject. Like in America, differing views on abstinence and family planning abound. Just getting people to talk openly about the realities of their village is quite a feat.
It was not a surprise, then, that many in Kivule village giggled or even walked away as Life Skills staff member Lorna Katagara talked about sex. HIV/AIDS and STDs are not comfortable topics. But Lorna isn’t concerned with preserving comfort. She’s concerned with saving lives and defending the vulnerable.
Of course, our Life Skills Education and Counseling program is best known for working with children, but in reality it covers a wide range of topics in the classroom and with parents in the village. Many children and adults have questions for our staff because they don’t know who else to ask.
By showing how diseases spread, Lorna helps the community see that if someone has an STD, then his or her partner will be infected through sex.
But the solution isn’t a simple one. Abstinence isn’t always an option, especially for married women.
One challenge Lorna faced is community views on gender roles in sex. The women laughed at the notion that they have any say in their own sex lives. “If my husband wants sex,” the women tell her in Lusoga, “I can’t do anything about it.” This is true even if their husbands have other wives, are promiscuous, or knowingly have an STD.
Lorna knows, of course, that this is a common cultural characteristic in rural Busoga communities. She also knows that many girls and women are raped and can therefore be infected even if they want to remain abstinent. Individual knowledge can only do so much. What is needed is a broad cultural shift that incorporates necessary facts about sex with a respect for everyone in the community.
To know why it is important to talk about sex, all you have to do is look at the crowd gathered. Young children ran around the group. Toddlers slept in their parents laps. Babies cooed and breastfed. Some women’s bellies swelled; many were clearly in their seventh or eighth month of pregnancy.
Like with all of Kibo’s programs, the Life Skills staff isn’t just concerned with the Uganda of today. At Kibo, we also plan for the Uganda of tomorrow. For all the inevitable awkwardness, kids who grow up in a home that talks about sex will be healthier, safer, and far less likely to get an STD.