- HIV/AIDS on rise in Amudat district
- The new cases are attributed to harmful cultural practices
- Four out of every ten widows in Pokot are inherited
AMUDAT DISTRICT ; Health officials in Amudat District in Karamoja region have expressed concern over the rising cases of new HIV /AIDS infections.
Dr Patrick Sagaki, Amudat District Health Officer said that before 2021 , the district had 175 patients on treatment but as of late the numbers have more than tripled.
According to him, the latest district health reports show a rise in new infections and about 600 patients have been enrolled on treatment.
Dr Sagaki attributed the rise to a number of factors including traditional practices such as Window Inheritance, Female Genital Mutilation, Lopeikirep festival among other.
It is a cultural norm in Pokot community in Amudat that when a husband die, the young or elder brothers must inherit the widow or his elder son inherit the youngest wife with no any excuse.
The reason behind the inheritance practice is that the family would not accept to lose her because of many cows the husband paid as bride price. ''The few cows that men could pay as bride price to the family of a wife is 70''.Dr. Sagaki noted.
He said that this cultural practices has continued to fuel HIV/AIDs transmission because the bigger percentage of people in the communities have not embraced the premarital test.
He noted that on other hand, other cultural practices such as cutting of young girls which is known as female genital mutilation has also partly contributed to the rise of new infection.
He said that though efforts have been done by the government and other Partners to fight against this harmful cultural practices, the practice is still happening in clandestine manner and the Sergio's don’t sterilize their cutting instruments, and one instrument can be used to cut many girls so if one is positive, they spread to others.
On their part, the Local leaders in the district expressed concern over the rising in new cases of HIV saying that it has continued to put the lives of the people at risk.
Ruto Andrew the Parish Chief for Lokoma Sub County noted that the widow inheritance practice has not only stopped at causing the spread of sexually transmitted, but it has further forced many widows to live under oppression situation.
He said that unfortunate the worst party is that it has never been discussed anywhere in the laws of Pokot on how to put an end to this cultural practice. According to him, In Pokot community 4 out of every 10 women are inherited, and this is done without their consent.
He said that actually when a husband dies in Pokot community, he lives a very beg gap and problems to his family. Ruto further noted that traditional festivals such as "Lopeikirep" which usually happens between August to December has also led to the transmission of new HIV infection and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases .
"Lopeikirep is a festival that occurs every year where by the people especially the youth gather almost for a week and engage in activities like cultural dance while fundraising for different needs such as wedding, house construction among others."Its setting is not good since it goes up to late in the night giving teenagers an opportunity to engage in risky sexual behaviors that can lead to HIV infection" He noted.
According to him, they are yet to sit as local leaders and other district leaders to come out with policies that will guide and regulate this festival going forward.
Acheng Esther, working with Amudati district health office in charge of Mothers and Children's Health said that the public's ignorance about HIV is also a challenge. "They are ignorant ,we are giving them information but people still relate it to witchcraft , somebody can be diagnosed with HIV but stay in denial as they infect others until they die". Acheng noted.
This was during a one week-long inter-generational dialogue in the five sub counties in Amudat district organized by Action Aid International Uganda-AAIU and United Nations Population Fund -UNFPA in line with implementing the 9th UNFPA country Program in Karamoja sub regions.
Suzan Ikwakol, Psychosocial support officer working with Action Aid said that the Inter-generational dialogues is one of the strategy to engage communities on preventing gender based violence -GBV, Female genital mutilation-FGM, teenage pregnancy, early marriages through using malt-sectaral approach by working with police and district leaders.
Detective ASP Odongo Daniel, OC CID Amudat district said that educating and sensitizing communities about the existing laws will help on curbing crime which happens due to cultural practices.
He noted for example the law that banned female genital mutilation-FGM, the law about Early marriage and other laws on gender based violence should be on finger tips of each and every body to avoid falling victim.