2.1 General findings on HIV/AIDS
2.2 Profiles of AIDS-afflicted families
2.3 Analysis of the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on rural families
2.4 Youth and HIV/AIDS: Knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP)
2.5 Youth and condoms: Knowledge, attitudes and practice
2.6 Factors contributing to a high risk environment for youths
The findings of this report concern only the villages, and to a certain extent, the districts visited. Given the diversity of the country and the complexity of HIV/AIDS infection patterns discussed above, they cannot be applied to Uganda as a whole.
1. In Kabarole, HIV infection rates for the town of Fort Portal are estimated at 25%-30% and are steady; in semi-urban areas, HIV infection rates are between 12% and 14% and rising, and in rural areas they are estimated at 6%-9% and are also rising.9
2. In Gulu, HIV infection rates, according to Lacor Hospital data from ante-natal screening, show that 13%-15% of women from 16 to 40 years of age are HIV positive. Blood donor samples show similar rates of infection. Lacor Hospital has no data on rural areas.
3. In Tororo, for every reported person infected with AIDS in the district, there are 50 others infected, according to the general manager of TASO. Mr. Geoffrey Diloth. With a multiplication factor of 50, he believes that Tororo should rank among the "high" HIV-infected districts in the country.
4. The-incubation period-of the-disease appears to be maturing in Kabarole and Tororo districts, as most-of the widows interviewed had lost their husbands during the past three to 12 months).
5. HIV/AIDS is affecting the most productive age group in the villages. While it is impossible to obtain exact figures of AIDS cases, a basic but significant indicator is the incidence of AIDS in every family. Some families have more than one member suffering from HIV/AIDS. "Every home is affected by AIDS in Kwapa village," said Helen Onyango, a TASO AIDS councillor in Tororo. "Either a relative is suffering, a family member is dying, or someone suspects he has AIDS." "We are burying almost everyday; not a day goes by without burials," said one man in Kabarole. "Every village, every household, every family in Tororo has people affected by AIDS," argued Mr. Diloth of TASO.
6. However, HIV/AIDS follows different patterns in each locality and it is difficult, if not erroneous, to generalize about a district on the basis of two villages. Geographic and ethnic factors, agro-ecological conditions, religion, gender, age and marital status play a role in the pattern and impact of HIV/AIDS and in people's perceptions of the disease. Even within one district, as was the case in Tororo, two villages can have radically different agro-ecological conditions and customs that determine sexual behaviour and attitude towards HIV/AIDS. It is therefore practically impossible to design nation-wide interventions for HIV/AIDS.
7. The impact of HIV/AIDS at the district level has been highly disruptive, as a significant number of highly qualified civil servants and technocrats are dying and are not being replaced. In Kabarole, the former DA and two, possibly three, of his staff have died in the past year from the disease. In Kantarara village, one extension worker who was very active with the YFP recently died of AIDS, signaling the downfall of the youth group.9 Source: GTZ findings, observations and estimates. The data is derived from ante-natal surveillance which may not give a full picture for rural areas.
The DAO in Tororo further noted that it is becoming increasingly difficult to implement agricultural programmes as a result of HIV/AIDS: extension staff are attending burials continuously and whenever the Department calls a meeting, only five out of 10 or 12 people are able to attend. Every time there is a burial, the work week is reduced from six to three days (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) as people have to take Saturday, Sunday and Monday off (Friday is the official day of rest) to travel to the village and attend the burials. Thus, HIV/AIDS is exacerbating the problems of an already overburdened and under-researched agricultural extension service.
The section below consists of four in-depth profiles of AIDS-afflicted families. The reason they have been reproduced in full in the main body of the text is that they provide a comprehensive picture of the socio-economic impact of AIDS on the lives of rural families, focusing on young men and women. Analyzing the socio-economic impact of AIDS in segments, as is done in section 2.3, can often conceal the cumulative impact of the disease. This section is intended to assist in a better understanding of the impact of HIV/AIDS and-of the dynamics of coping mechanisms adopted by rural families.
Toro, an AIDS widow, is 42. She has 8 orphans, 25, 23, 20, 18, 16, 14 and 10 years of age, and an infant of 18 months. They live in Kwapa Village, Tororo District. Toro's husband, a policeman in Mbale district, died of AIDS in July 1992. He was a TASO client. She and her youngest child are HIV-positive and have tuberculosis. Her 23-year-old boy is retarded.
Toro is also a TASO client and, as she is not receiving any help from her late husband's family, TASO is her only source of support. Her family is suffering from severe food shortages. "There is almost no food in the house," she said. She tries to provide two meals a day but finds it difficult, and five to six times a month, she only prepares one meal a day - millet porridge.
Toro only grows millet and cassava, but last year the millet crop failed and this year the cassava is still too young to be harvested. When her husband was still alive, they grew beans, maize, rice, cassava and millet, occasionally using hired labour. These days, because of labour shortages and lack of cash with which to employ labour, she has had reduce the number of crops under cultivation. It is only on rare occasions that she employs casual laborers. Most of the time, she has to do all the farm work herself but is too weak to do so properly.
With only two crops, she finds it difficult to provide a balanced diet for the household. The family eats mostly millet bread, sometimes with greens or beans and rarely with meat. When her husband was alive, she remarked that the diet was varied: flour, beans, powder milk, fish, rice and cooking oil were bought on a regular basis. Hygiene was better because they could afford soap. In addition, she used to dry and sell some cassava and then use that money to buy essential goods. These days, she has reduced the acreage of the cassava shamba (garden) and there is no extra produce to sell. As a result, only rarely does she have money for salt, sugar, soap and beans.
The children who are over 10 years are helping her in the shamba and she is making a conscious effort to teach them how to grow food: "I am trying to teach them as much as I can before I get too-weak; this is their only hope... I have to teach them how to grow food if they are to survive," she said.
The older children (10 years and up) work to supplement the household income. Three of them work in neighbouring fields as casual labourers, another buys soybeans whenever there is a little extra cash, fries it and sells it at the market, and yet another makes rope out of sisal fibre.
The impact of the husband's death on the family has been devastating. The widow emphasizes the loss of financial security and sharp decline in living standard as the most significant change. The economic hardship has put a lot of pressure on the children. They are maturing faster than she thinks is right for them, she remarked, and even though she realizes the danger involved, she added: "I have no choice; I have to make sure that even the youngest ones become independent before I die."
Her 20-year-old son recently ran away from home: "He was fed up with going hungry. There was no soap, no salt, no sugar, and sometimes not enough food in the house. He did not have proper clothing - One day, he disappeared and then we heard that he went to his cousin's sister far away from here. He left last April and has never been back since." He is now unemployed and does not assist his family. Toro fears that he may have run away because of the stigma attached to the family as a result of AIDS - a stigma which he found too hard to bear. She never sees him and does not even know how he is surviving in his new home. Her greatest fear is that he will end up loitering and drinking in the nearby town.
Toro fears that some of her other children may follow his example and run away to relatives to escape from the AIDS stigma and the poverty. Her inability to take care of her children properly is devastating to her, as is the process of watching her whole family disintegrate. She worries that one day her sons and daughters will lose contact and will not be to help one another in times of need.
All her children have been stigmatized and ostracized from the extended family and the community. "Yesterday," the widow said, "my son came back from school in tears; his friends would not let him play with them because his father had died of SLIM." This has happened many times, she added, but "it saddens and depresses me more than anything else. To see my children go through this [humiliation] because of their father and myself is unbearable. And there is nothing I can do about it. I went to see the teacher to ask him to talk to the pupils, but I have done this many times before and nothing happened."
Toro considered education to be critical for the future of her children, but remarked that the AIDS stigma seriously jeopardized their chances of finishing school. Their future, she added, was largely dependent on the education they received and their perseverance as farmers.
Toro herself has been ostracized from the community and from the immediate family. She said that even though her late husband's family is in a position to help her and has the resources to do so, they refuse: "They are not willing to help me," she added, "because they do not want to help me. They even want to take the house [we live in]."
Her husband left her 12 cows, but she has already sold 7 to support the family, pay school fees for the children and medical bills. "After I sell the last five cows, I will have nothing," she added, indicating that the cows are her last vestige of security. She said that from now on she will be forced to rely on the children to raise cash.
Toro has never tried to talk to her children about HIV/AIDS. In fact, she said she had never told her children that she and her late husband are suffering from the disease. Her children know that she has AIDS but have found out from other people, during their father's funeral. When asked why she had not spoken to here children about AIDS, she replied that she found it too sensitive and painful now that she was also infected with HIV. She had tried to tell her children several times in the past, she said, but could not bring herself to do it. She said she would prefer an outsider to tell her children about her condition.
The story of Toro's eldest daughter, Jane Helen, 25, married, and mother of a 4-year-old child, clearly delineates the impact of AIDS on rural families, and especially young women. Jane Helen has finished primary school and attended four years of secondary school.
Jane Helen had left her husband behind nearly six months ago to come and take care of her mother. She is very torn by this decision because on the one hand she wants to look after her mother, but on the other hand, she fears she might not have a marriage or a family to go back to. Her husband's village is far away and she is unable visit him periodically. Jane Helen worries that her husband might have already found another wife, or that he will refuse to take her back when she returns. She described being under enormous pressure, having to nurse her mother at the expense of neglecting her own husband and child. But her mother has no one else to help her, she added. Jane Helen fears that if she does not stay, her mother will die and then, she wondered, "What will happen to her children?" Her siblings are all young and she will have to assume responsibility for at least five of them. Not only does she not have the means to support them, but she also fears her husband may not agree to take them in.
Jane Helen grows millet and cassava on her father's land for about four hours a day. Next, she tends to the housework and to her siblings. When the children return from school, they fetch water and fuelwood. She has difficulty managing the family all on her own while also taking care of her sick mother and indicated she had suddenly become a single parent of a large family. Controlling and disciplining the children, especially the boys, was her main worry. Her mother was trying hard to keep the family together, she said, but was getting too weak. Helen Jane felt that no matter how hard she tried herself, the children refused to listen, particularly the adolescents.
Jane Helen has learned about AIDS from her friends. Young men and women do not bother much about HIV/AIDS, she said. This she attributed to "negligence" on their part, largely a result of the fact that youths do not believe AIDS can "happen" to them. She has a lot of young women friends between the ages of 16 and 25 who have lost a partner to AIDS and fear they may be infected. "Some young women fear testing," she said. "try to deny the problem and forget all about it. When they suspect they may have AIDS, they become careless and go on a [sexual] rampage - their argument being 'What about the days when AIDS was not there? People were still dying.'" Even those young women who want to protect themselves from AIDS find it difficult to do so because boys do not respect girls who ask for condoms. They associate condoms with promiscuity and immorality. In general terms, she said men and women her age are not faithful to their partners.
Jane Helen remarked that these days many young girls are having sex to buy clothing, shoes, cosmetics and have extra pocket money. She attributed early sexual behaviour and multiple sexual partners partly to weekend beer parties and discos. Her description of these social events was as follows: About 30 to 40 boys and girls get together, with the consent of their parents. Some parents also join the parties. Children as young as 10 years thus begin drinking and engaging in sexual activity. The parties can last from two to seven days with continuous drinking and dancing. Jane Helen pointed out that these days, youths dance 'western style," which means that there is constant body contact, while traditional dancing does not involve direct physical contact. When people hold each other close, she added, they are easily led to sexual activity. "Almost none of the youths have condoms with them at the discos and even fewer use them* she added. About 10 years ago, discos were also popular in boarding schools but they were abolished under the pressure of the AIDS epidemic. Those who are in school are more sexually active than those who are not in school, she thought.
Jane Helen mentioned that one of the reasons why young people drink heavily is because girls learn how to brew the local beer from a very early age so that by the time they are 12, they can distil alcohol on-their own. Alcohol, then, has become part of youth culture and is to a large extent socially acceptable. For young men, she said, drinking and casual sexual partners goes along with the lifestyle involved in smuggling in border towns where sex is easily available.
Jane Helen feels uncertain about her future, about her own family and her siblings. She used to have a business of her own but lost all the capital. Now, she does not know how to start another business so that she can make a living and is not sure if she has a home to go back to. She said what she needed most was counseling to help her cope with AIDS and practical advice on how to help her mother, siblings and herself.
Everlesto, 33, has AIDS. His 30-year-old wife, who also has AIDS has been sick for nearly two years and has gone back to her family to die, leaving behind 4 girls, 4, 6, 7 and 10 years old. Everlesto has been sick for two years. His two sisters and four brothers also died of AIDS. He and his family live in Kantarara village, Kabarole District.
The -household is now headed by his mother, but the family lives with Everlesto's brother whose wife left him some years ago. Everlesto's own house recently collapsed but he could not repair it because he is too weak. Everlesto has some land which has not been cultivated for the past two years, ever since he got sick. His brother can hardly manage farming his own land single handedly; he is unable to tend to Everlesto's land and their mother is too old and frail to help on the farm. Most of her time is taken up caring for the children and for Everlesto.
None of the children are in school. The family exhausted its savings long ago, when Everlesto and his wife first got ill and sought costly treatment. Not only does the family not have money for school fees, said Everlesto's mother, but the children were not getting enough to eat and there was no money for Everlesto to buy medication even though he was now in a lot of pain. When he first contracted typhoid and malaria, Everlesto began treatment, but now he did not have enough money to complete it. He has never been visited by a health worker.
In fact, Everlesto said that nobody was helping him and his family in the village. He said that the RCs were more involved in collecting taxes and enforcing the law rather than assisting families in need. Initially, Everlesto said, the elders in the village held a few meetings to discuss HIV/AIDS, but they could not agree on how to proceed and dropped the issue.
Everlesto's mother does not know whom to turn to. Her main concern is her grandchildren: "What will happen to them when I die, with no one to look after them?" she said.
Loi, a widow in her late 30s, has seven children, 25, 23. 22, 19, 18 and 12 years of age. They live in Tororo District. Loi was married when she was 13. Her husband died in April 1988 from AIDS. She also has AIDS, is bedridden and incoherent at times. She is a TASO client.
Loi was severely undernourished, exhausted, and unable to lift herself upright on the bed. The bed had no sheets and was soiled. Loi was emaciated and had not washed in several days. She shares the hut with her daughter, who is 19, has had five years of primary school, and is not yet married, but has a child of two years. When Loi's husband died, she sent her daughter to Kenya to work as a housemaid for two years, earning 6.000 USh per month. Her daughter entrusted her salary to her landlady for safekeeping but at the end of two years when she was about to return home, the landlady kept the money. Her daughter returned home without any savings. At present, her daughter is-the only one taking care of her. "Without my daughter, I could not have managed. I would not be alive today," Loi said.
None of her sons are working. When her husband died, they all dropped out of school because she could no longer afford to pay school fees any longer. Now they cannot find jobs. One of her sons is married and is living nearby. He only has a small cassava shamba which is not enough to feed his own family, let alone his mother and sister.
When her husband was alive, the family grew potatoes and sorghum on their 3-acre plot. Some of the sorghum was sold to buy soap, salt, meat, fish and paraffin. These days, Loi only grows cassava and millet. The husband's family has not claimed the land yet, but she fears this may happen at any time. When she feels strong, she works as a casual labourer to earn some cash. The daily wage of casual labourers is about 1,000 USh (about US$.80). She would like to grow beans to diversify and improve the-family diet but cannot do so at present as her yields have declined drastically. The old cassava shamba is nearly finished and the new one is too young to harvest. In addition, she said she tried to harvest millet this year but was unable to because the general body pain was too severe and she did not have the strength to work in the shamba. At present, the family does not grow enough food to live off.
Her diet consists of cassava, millet and a few greens. Loi's daughter tries to prepare two meals a day, but often they only have one. Eating the same food - boiled cassava without sauce (there is no money to buy oil with which to prepare the sauce) - has made Loi loose her appetite, she said. "I cannot eat the same food every day anymore. I need some variety," she said. Loi had not eaten fruit for at least a month.
The widow has received no moral or material support from her late husband's family or from the village. No one ever comes to see her. Attitudes toward her and her family were very negative, she said. She does not want to ask for help from her husband's male relatives because she fears that their wives will suspect that she is sexually involved with them.
When she is not bedridden, Loi works from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm. This long workday exhausts her but she cannot afford to rest because she and her daughter would not have enough to live on. She described this as a vicious circle she could not escape from: on the one hand, she cannot grow enough food to feed herself and her family because she is too weak and hungry, while on the other hand she needs to eat properly in order to be strong enough to work in the shamba.
Loi's daughter, Faibe, is 19 years old, has five years of primary education, and is the mother of a two-year-old child. She shares the hut with her mother and manages the household. One of her brothers is a farmer and a few times a year he gives them some cassava. Her other two brothers are being trained as prison wardens.
She can not earn money during this period because the weeding has finished and there is no other work in the shambas. To raise cash, she has decided to brew adjono (local beer) as a last resort. She said she can earn 4,000 USh (a little over US$3) a day selling adjono, while she only earns 1,000 USh (US$.80) from farm work. It takes her 10 days to prepare adjono.
Faibe has had no time to herself since her mother fell ill and hinted that her life was not her own since illness hit the family. She is depressed and feels helpless. Her mother has never talked to her about HIV/AIDS. Faibe does not even know her mother has AIDS. She must suspect it, but does not want to admit it.
Mary, 19, lives in Kwapa village, Tororo District, with her father's family. A 42-year-old hotel manager in Malaba (a small town near the Kenya border), he lost his wife to AIDS three weeks before we interviewed his daughter. Her mother's grave, which was right outside the hut, was still fresh. Her father, who is infected with HIV and sick, has two wives and a third partner in Malaba town who is also infected. His second wife, who shares the same house, has three young children living with her (two twin girls and one boy), but she does not think they are infected.
Mary and her one-year-old son also have AIDS. They have aggressive herpes zoster on their bodies and her child has severe diarrhoea and dry coughing. During the interview, her baby was too weak to breastfeed and flies were swarming its eyes, mouth and open sores. She was not covering the open sores of the child, not for lack of caring but because of the futility of the gesture, she said.
Mary's entire-immediate family is infected with HIV, including her 10-year-old brother and her 7 and 14 year old sisters. When Mary was asked how she thought her younger siblings got infected, she-replied she was not certain whether this was through caring for her late mother or through sexual activity.
A farmer, with, primary school education, Mary grows maize, cassava and groundnuts. Her family often does not have enough to eat because the cassava shamba is almost finished and they do not have another one ready for harvesting. She wants to grow more cassava but her father insists on growing millet. The family diet consists of millet bread and vegetables.
Mary described her mother as the pillar of the family and said that her death had a devastating impact on the family. Now she has to rely on her stepmother with whom her late mother, her siblings and herself never got along. Her brothers and sisters are neglected because their father still has his second wife and family. Mary's stepmother has assumed responsibility for her siblings and at the moment, they are all in school. But her mother's death is too recent and she does not know if her siblings will remain in school next year.
Mary shares the cooking and other household work with her stepmother. She brews adjono in order to raise cash, but brewing is seasonal and for the rest of the time she does not engage in any income-generating activity. With the money she earns from adjono she buys soap, meat, matches, paraffin and clothes.
As she receives no help from anyone, Mary has coped with her mother's death and her family's illness with great difficulty. She is severely depressed, apathetic and remote. It appears that she is so bewildered by what is happening to her family that she is unable to react. According to TASO, which regularly visits her father, Mary has deadened herself to pain, anxiety and stress. She said she knows that her baby, her brother and sister, her father and herself were going to die and there was nothing left for her to do and nothing to hope for.
The most important thing in her life was school. She said she liked learning in a group and sharing interests with other people. She felt that education would give her a brighter future and 50 a purpose in life. "I had dreams and I could try to make them happen" she added. But when she got pregnant, her father stopped paying school fees and she dropped out.
Mary would like to see a youth group in her village encourage girls to develop skills and create income-generating opportunities that will keep them away from "bad company," as she put it. She said she had been misled as an adolescent because she did not have the confidence to stand up to boys and refuse sex. She would like to see young women have more opportunities than herself, she said and identified idleness, drinking and the absence of creative opportunities as the biggest problems for youths.
2.3.1 The implications of HIV/AIDS for widows and their families
2.3.2 Focus on the socio-economic implications of HIV/AIDS for orphans
2.3.3 The impact of HIV/AIDS on the household economy and family value system
HIV/AIDS affects men and women very differently. The socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on rural families has different repercussions depending on whether it is the man/father or woman/mother who dies. It should be emphasized, however, that the analysis below may only be applicable to areas undergoing a peak in deaths as a result of AIDS, particularly among men. This appears to be the case in Kabarole, Tororo and Gulu.
A significant first finding is that there are far more AIDS widows than widowers in all three districts. This trend was confirmed by AIDS councillors. In Tororo. Helen Onyango of TASO reported that only 5 of her 62 clients are widowers. The rest are young widows from 15 to 35 years. The reason for this is partly that men often have more than one wife. Many Christians and Muslims alike in Uganda are polygamous. In Tororo, 42% of all marriages are polygamous. Men who only have one wife tend to remarry soon after the death of their HIV-afflicted wife thereby transferring responsibility and care of the children to the new spouse. Some men begin looking for a second wife before their AIDS-afflicted wife dies. When a woman/mother dies, the orphans are being cared for by the new wife. However, there are cases where the new wife does not tolerate the orphans who are then sent to the maternal aunt.
Before analyzing the socio-economic impact of the AIDS epidemic on young widows, it is important to assess what happens to widows in general (including war widows and widows whose husbands die from causes other than AIDS) in order to isolate the impact resulting from AIDS alone.
In general terms, widows in Uganda face the following scenarios:
* they risk having their husband's land confiscated, as women do not have the right to inherit land. Sometimes they also lose rights to land use;
* they may lose their property to the husband's family, unless the husband has left a will. Property acquired during marriage belongs to the husband, according to customary law. Women do not inherit property when their husbands die. Legally, a wife (or wives) can claim 15% of the husband's estate but most women are not aware of their legal rights;
* they may be inherited by the late husband's brother or near male relative and if they refuse, can be forced to return to the parental home. When they are not inherited and remain in the conjugal home, they are often without protection;
* the only security for widows is their sons (13-15 years or older) who can claim land and property; in some cases, younger sons who are physically strong enough to stand up to the extended family and claim their father's property and land may be able to offer their mothers and families some security;
* they often have sole responsibility for the orphans;
* they suffer a significant loss of cash income, as a result of which their standard of living can decline drastically;
* they often lose access to support services as it is usually the men who have access to inputs, credit and extension services; and
* they are overworked, have little time to themselves and are thus hard to reach and mobilize.
HIV/AIDS does not only contribute to the rise of female-headed households on a large scale. What is significant about AIDS widows is that they are younger and thus tend to have dependent children who need to be looked after and who cannot contribute to farm work and/or off-farm income-generation activities.
a. Widows and their Families May Become Entrenched in Poverty
The interplay of a wide range of socio-economic problems resulting from HIV/AIDS often pushes AIDS widows and their families below the poverty threshold, directly threatening the survival and well-being of their families. Even more importantly perhaps, female-headed households afflicted by AIDS become entrenched in poverty, as, in addition to the loss of labour and cash income, women have fewer legal rights than men, are often less literate than men, and have limited access to support services, credit, and inputs. The result is a marked increase in poverty among AIDS widows. This feminization of poverty, a key characteristic of the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS, has far-reaching consequences for rural societies, and particularly youths, with girls/young women being most affected. Given the scale of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda, the marked increase in poverty among young women and their dependent children is likely to have a profound impact on the nation as a whole, particularly on food security (as it is the women who are responsible for food production). For this reason, it is critical that HIV/AIDS interventions address this trend to mitigate its impact and arrest the crippling effect on Uganda's predominantly agricultural economy.
b. Widows and their Families May be Stigmatized and/or Ostracized
The AIDS stigma, in particular, can sever the access widows would otherwise have to assistance from the extended family and the community. Much depends on how the husband's family reacts to the death of a son. Often, the widow is blamed for transmitting the disease to the son and is accused of promiscuity and immorality. Stigmatization may result in loss of respect within the extended family and the community, abuse and repression. Several young widows in Kabarole, Tororo and Gulu noted that their husbands' families could have helped them if they wanted to, implying that the problem was not lack of resources but contempt and Stigmatization. Some widows are harassed and forced to leave their village and migrate to the towns where they can escape from the stigma, earn their living as petty traders and remarry in anonymity. The situation is worse for widows who only have girl children, as the latter do not inherit land and property.
Jacenta, a 52-year-old grandmother in Bwabya, Kabarole, described how her 23-year-old daughter was forced to leave her husband's village after his death to AIDS. She brought her two children to her; parents' home and unable to face the stigma went to Kasese town to earn a living as a trader. This displacement, said her mother, has demoralized both her daughter and her children. Her daughter only occasionally sees her children and the strain on the old woman and her husband who are too old and weak to care for their grandchildren properly is only increasing with time.
Figure 1: The AIDS Stigma
c. Widows May Develop a Crippling Anxiety over their Sero-Status and the Sero-Status of their Children
If a man is known to have died of AIDS or if a widow suspects that her husband may have died of AIDS, the possibility of herself and/or her children being infected with HIV becomes "crippling," in the words of one young widow. The greatest anxiety of an AIDS widow over her sero-status concerns her children rather than herself. A war widow may worry over the future of her children but she knows she can rely on herself to support her family. An AIDS widow who suspects she may be infected cannot rely on herself. This makes her helpless, and in the absence of assistance from the extended family and community, there are often no alternatives open to her.
Almost all widows interviewed in the three districts wanted to know their sero-status. Few widows know where to turn to in order to get information and counselling on HIV testing. Most are not aware that there are testing facilities available in a nearby town. Jacenta, a 52-year-old grandmother from Bwabya, Kabarole, mentioned that neither she nor her daughter were aware that one could be tested for HIV. The fact that AIDS widows feel the need to know their sero-status suggests that their state of helplessness can be overcome and need not be permanent. Providing women with information on HIV-testing and counselling is critical but may not be enough, however, as transport costs to the clinic can be prohibitively expensive, particularly considering that HIV testing requires at least two or three hospital visits.
One young widow in Kwapa, Tororo mentioned that even if she tested HIV positive, she could at least start making provisions for her children and plan their future. The viewpoint that it is better to know one's sero-status even if this is positive was echoed by young widows in ail villages. In fact, most of the HIV-infected widows who already knew their sero-status are far from helpless. One widow in Bwabya, Kabarole, has left an informal will with the RC1 and given copies to the elders of the village. Others are trying to find out how they can secure the future of their girl children. One widow in Gulu who was already sick with AIDS decided to open a bank account for her eldest daughter of 16 years who was to care for the rest of her siblings. Both women recommended that widows be informed of alternatives so that they could plan the future of their children accordingly.
Most widows interviewed, with the exception of those who were TASO clients or clients of the Gulu Hospital AIDS unit, were not aware of the existence of wills. TASO and Gulu Hospital clients had difficulty accepting the rationale behind the will at first, but later recognized it as an absolute necessity for the survival and well-being of their families. Similarly, most women do not know how to open bank accounts and how to go about getting information with regard to their legal rights.
d. Widows Who are Inherited May Infect the Extended Family with HIV
Originally a social security system and safety net for widows who do not inherit land or property and have few legal rights, wife inheritance has become an acute problem as a result of HIV/AIDS.
According to tradition, in many parts of Uganda when a man dies, his widow is inherited by his brothers or near male relatives. Wife-inheritance is closely linked to the bride wealth paid by the man upon marrying a woman. The bride price effectively signals that a woman becomes the property of her husband and his clan.
Wife inheritance greatly facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS and has the potential of infecting several families very rapidly: When widows are inherited by their late husband's brother, they risk infecting them as well as their co-wives. If any of the wives has children, they may also be infected with HIV. In some cases, widows whose husbands have died of causes unrelated to HIV/AIDS may become infected with HIV if the brother-in-law is already infected.
Angela, a widow from Gulu, lost her husband to AIDS and is herself very sick with AIDS. Her brother-in-law tried from the very beginning to inherit her but she categorically refused, so as not to infect him and his wife. He has repeatedly told her that he does not care she has AIDS and is willing to take the risk of becoming infected. He-harassed her for almost a year, and when «he still held firm and refused, he cut off all financial support to her and her four orphans. Now, he is trying to claim the land that his brother left jointly to them. The paradox of her situation is striking: Angela has been abandoned because she wants to protect her brother-in-law and his family from contracting AIDS. Once she refused him, she said, she became ostracized from the entire family and can not rely on them for anything, not even moral support. Angela's resistance to inheritance had a very high price attached to it, leading to a further deterioration of her family's well-being.
Figure 2: Widows' Dilemma: Being Inherited or Being Abandoned
In all three districts visited, widows are trying to challenge this institution to protect their families. However, there is considerable resistance to change, particularly among male family members. In some instances, this is a result of ignorance. For instance, a man who sees his late brother's widow looking healthy may ignore the possibility that she may be HIV-positive.
What is more alarming, however, is the fact that even though some men are aware of the dangers of wife inheritance, they insist on inheriting a widow at all cost. It appears that this may be linked to the bride wealth: as wives and their children ate the property of the clan, if they are not inherited the clan looses claim to this wealth.
The fact that men insist on inheriting widows even when they have good reason to suspect that they may be HIV-positive is puzzling. Most HIV/AIDS initiatives do not deal with the issue of wife inheritance as it is a private and sensitive matter. TASO and ACORD are trying to challenge the institution, but find it a formidable obstacle to their work. TASO's greatest challenge, according to TASO Councillor Helen Onyango, is to convince elders and male relatives to discontinue wife inheritance. Only three out of ten times does TASO succeed in overruling customary practice.
Eddis, a 20-year-old widow, has two orphan girls, 21/2 years and 4 months old, both of whom are infected with HIV. Her husband died of AIDS at the age of 23, one month before we interviewed her.- He was a temporary helper with the Ministry of Public Works. She is a TASO client and lives in Kwapa village, Tororo District.
The widow was inherited by her husband's brother, according to custom. This was the only way she could have remained in her husband's home where she feels she belongs. If she had not been inherited, she would have had to go back to her family. Her husband's brother, a farmer, is supportive but cannot help her financially. He is married and has two children, 8 and 10 years old. Eddis is now working on her husband's land but fears that as she does not have sons, she may not be able to keep the land. She said she does not dare raise the issue with the family and hopes that her brother-in-law will support her. If he does not, she will have no alternative but to return to her parents.
Eddis is still healthy and has not yet felt the full impact of her husband's death. Her most immediate problem, beside the possible loss of rights to use the land, is her relationship with her brother-in-law. She said that he visits her regularly at night. As she is infected, she does not know how to handle the situation. She has explained to him that she is infected and he knows that his brother had AIDS. "He sees that I look. Healthy and wants to take the chance. He is not worried [about AIDS], What can I do? I have warned him," she said. Eddis has not considered using condoms and is too shy to introduce the subject with her brother-in-law. Her co-wife is jealous of her and Eddis fears she may be chased away if she does not act according to custom. She wants to stay in the village even as an inherited second wife, as this is to her the best alternative.
Her brother-in-taw does not help her financially and she works alone on her husband's 8 acres of land. She grows potatoes, cassava, millet and sorghum, but would also like to grow maize, beans and groundnuts to have porridge for the children and to sell some for cash. As she does not have cash at present, she intends to hire labourers and pay them in kind, even if this means that she has to reduce her family's food intake. She sells cassava to raise cash and also works as a casual labourer.
Figure 3: Defying the Dangers of Wife Inheritance
In many parts of Uganda, wife inheritance continues. This implies that a) HIV/AIDS initiatives do not address the issue of wife inheritance; b) the imparted knowledge does not address the wife inheritance issue effectively; or c) the impact of this knowledge is neutralized as a result of women's inferior legal and socio-economic status, and the absence of negotiation/assertiveness skills.
Given the critical role that wife inheritance plays in the infection and/or transmission of HIV/AIDS, there is an urgent need to address this problem, sensitize men and women and help families find alternative coping strategies.
The case of Margaret (see Figure 4), points to the fact that with some help, women can successfully resist wife inheritance. Margaret's husband probably did not die of AIDS and thus she did not have to face the AIDS stigma. However, the fact that she was able to stand up to the family, resist being inherited and remain in her home is significant in itself. In addition, elders pointed out that given the devastating impact of wife inheritance, proper sensitisation addressing the dangers involved could play a catalytic role in eradicating the practice.
Margaret, mid-30s, a widow, lost her husband 6 years ago but not to AIDS. She has 5 children, 17, 15, 10, 8, 6 years and an 8 month old baby. She has P4 education. Margaret successfully resisted being Inherited. Her husband, a farmer, who she believes was bewitched, left a will which stipulated that she was not to be inherited. His brothers tried to overrule the will but did not succeed and she was able to also keep his land and house.
Even if her husband had not left a will, Margaret said, she would have resisted being Inherited. "Poverty is not an excuse for wife inheritance," she said. "Life is usually actually worse when a widow is inherited" widows become a burden to the co-wife who grows to hate them, may be jealous and seek revenge. Inherited widows are rarely happy and become staves after the initial sexual interest of the brother-in-law wears off." She thinks women can resist being inherited but that self-assertiveness largely depends on how they are raised and on the type of relationship they had with their husbands.
Figure 4: Successfully. Resisting Wife Inheritance
The impact of HIV/AIDS on orphans depends on a variety of factors, including the socio-economic status of their families, their age and the age of their siblings. The following trends were observed:
a. Orphans May be Uprooted from the Towns and Sent Back to the Village
Youths whose parents die of AIDS in the towns are usually taken back to the village. Very often, the youths have to adjust at once to being orphans as well as to adapting to village life. In some cases, they may have never lived in the village and feel estranged from their new surroundings. The return to agricultural work is often looked down upon by city youths. In addition, the security and stability of family life is abruptly disrupted and there is no social net or mechanism to help youths through this transition. Family life education often ceases, thereby increasing risk behaviour among youths.
b. Orphans May Run Away from Home to Escape the Stigma and Poverty
In some cases, orphans may run away from home or from the extended family home to escape the AIDS stigma and the poverty that AIDS-afflicted and affected families are subjected to. A case in point is Toro's 20-year-old son, Richard, (see AIDS Profile 1), who left home to escape from the AIDS stigma and from poverty. He is now unemployed and his mother fears he may become a delinquent.
As a result of AIDS, Tororo district is for the first time seeing the emergence of street children, most of whom are orphans, according to TASO. Several TASO clients, aged between 8 and 14 years, left their villages to work in the town as boda-boda (hired cyclists transporting people and goods)
Richard, a 19-year-old youth in Nyankuku, Kabarole, moved back to the village one year ago, after his-father's death. A driver in Kampala, his father died five days after burying his two-year-old daughter who some suspected had AIDS. He also died of a "long illness." Richard fives alone in his father's house. His grandmother, a widow in her early 60s, lives nearby but has virtually no control over him. His half-sister, Rosette, who is 15, divides her time between the homes of Richard and her paternal uncle.
The young man has 3 acres of land where he grows bananas, sweet potatoes, beans, cassava, maize and eucalyptus trees. But both he and his grandmother are disillusioned with agriculture, which they believe condemns people to subsistence.
Richard and his half-sister stopped going to school because there was no money for school fees. His grandmother is worried about his future, but does not know what to advise him, Richard wants to move to a nearby town and become a driver. He wants to leave the land to his siblings, he said, because he does not belong in the village, where he feels "like an outcast."
Figure 5: Dislocated from the city to the village.
c. Orphans May be Taken out of School and Sent to Work
Under the pressure of the AIDS stigma which often severely hampers the ability of young widows to earn a living, orphans may be sent in the capital or abroad to Figure 5: Dislocated from the city to the village make up for the loss of income and to help support younger siblings. A case in point is Loi (AIDS Profile 3), who after her husband's death sent her 14-year-old daughter to work as a housemaid in Kenya.
d. Orphans May be Sent to Live With Relatives or Neighbours
During the last funeral rites, a new head of family is appointed and the future of the orphans is decided upon. If both parents have died, the orphans are dispersed to various relatives. The disintegration of the family often means that adolescents and young men and women do not receive adequate attention and guidance from relatives, particularly family life education. Grandparents in particular often find themselves unable to control and discipline adolescents.
Losing a parent to AIDS means that orphans have to assume new roles and responsibilities within the nuclear as well as extended family. One AIDS widow in Bwabya, Kabarole, who has six orphans expressed grave concern about the impact of HIV/AIDS on her family: "The children are lonely and sad without any family around the house while I work in the fields. I do not know how to comfort them. I tell them they have to be self-reliant from now on, that they cannot even rely on me as I also fear I am infected. I know I am asking them to grow up before their time, but I see no other alternative if they are to survive."
Traditional roles, duties and responsibilities of family members become blurred, as AIDS places additional demands and pressures on orphans, particularly economic uncertainty, stigmatization and emotional insecurity. Girls appear to be carrying the brunt of the burden within the home and are given more responsibilities and duties than boys. They are taken out of school to work at home and on the farm and to sell produce in the market.
Some young women may be forced to break up their families to assist their AIDS-afflicted parents. Jane Helen (AIDS Profile 1) left her husband behind in January 1993 in order to take care of her mother who is suffering from AIDS. She is very torn by this decision because on the one hand she wants to take care of her mother, but on the other hand, she fears she may not have a marriage or family to go back to, as her husband may decide to take another wife. Even if he does not take another wife, however, Jane Helen fears he may be engaging in high risk behaviour now that she is away but feels she does not have the right to confront him with it as she has "abandoned" him.
The section below will analyze the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on young widows, focusing on how the nuclear family breaks down and how the extended family network is strained to breaking point as traditional coping mechanisms collapse. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the nuclear family ranges from break down to disintegration, depending on whether one or both parents have died.
a. The Household-Economy Becomes Impoverished
Having already depleted meagre resources and savings toward costly treatment for husbands suffering from AIDS and/or for funerals, widows suddenly find themselves deprived of labour, cash income and access to credit, inputs and support services. In widow-headed households with many young children and elderly and/or infirm family members, the impact can be devastating. The following coping mechanisms may emerge:
i. The Working Day may be Lengthened
Almost all widows interviewed mentioned that their working day had increased by two to four hours to make up for labour shortages and loss of income. One of the consequences of this coping mechanism, however, is that children were left unattended, their meals were poorly and hastily prepared and the widows' own health and diet deteriorated as a result of exhaustion and less food intake.
Older children (10 years and above) are also working longer hours to assist single parents and their contribution to agricultural activities increased significantly. Those who have lost both parents and are living with relatives are more likely to work longer hours than children who have only lost one parent and remain in the nuclear home. Children assume greater responsibility in gathering fuelwood and fetching water, to allow their mothers more time in the shambas.
Loss of agricultural knowledge was not observed in any of the three districts. This may be either because HIV/AIDS has not hit the areas visited as hard as districts where loss of agricultural knowledge has been reported, such as Rakai and Masaka, but also because the disease is only now reaching its peak and the full impact is only beginning to be felt. In addition, agricultural knowledge is transmitted through women (mothers and grandmothers) and in the villages visited, there are more men than women dying of AIDS.
Keloyi, 33, widow, has five children, aged 2, 6. 8, 12 and 13. Her husband and his other wife died of AIDS in 1991. He was a cook in Makerere University in Kampala and used to send her money regularly. Her relatives abandoned her and she now farms two plots of land (2 and 3 acres) her husband left her. She sells banana juice to raise cash for casual labour. Keloyi has extended the working day by about three hours during weekdays and has virtually eliminated the few hours of rest she used to have on Sundays. She reported feeling increasingly weak, overworked and exhausted, and feared she might get ill, but did not now know how else to make up for the loss of income.
Figure 6: More work, less rest, poorer health
ii. Land Area Under Cultivation May be Reduced
Reducing land area under cultivation to accommodate labour shortages was the most commonly observed coping strategy among widows in the villages visited. Agricultural productivity tends to decline and families may become more vulnerable to crop failure. In Tororo and Gulu districts, vulnerable farming systems trigger periodic food shortages which are acutely felt by AIDS-afflicted and affected families.
iii. Cash Crops may be Substituted by Less Labour-intensive Food Crops
As a result of labour shortages and lack of resources for pesticides and other inputs, cash crops may-be-substituted with less labour-intensive (and often less nutritious) crops. Widows in Kabarole gave up growing tomatoes, a major cash crop, which they previously grew jointly with their husbands due to lack of money for fungicides. Rice and millet, which are labour-intensive, are also often abandoned in favour of maize and cassava which require less labour.
iv. Planting and Weeding may be Delayed Leading to Poor Harvests or the Loss of an Agricultural Season
When a family member dies, relatives stop working in the shambas and do not engage in agricultural activities anywhere from a week to several months, depending on the age of the deceased. At times, the entire village may stop agricultural activities for a week. If three people die consecutively, then farmers may neglect their shambas for three or more months. As a result, the time of planting is often delayed and some families may lose an agricultural season. The impact on food security can be severe and households may experience food shortages. Failure to comply with this custom can lead to beating or to ostracism from the family. There is evidence, however, that this trend is changing as people are forced to disregard cultural norms and resume agricultural activities after two or three days of mourning, particularly in Gulu.
v. Shambas may be Neglected and/or Abandoned
HIV-infected men and women may be unable to engage in agricultural activities as they grow weaker and eventually abandon the shamba. Everlesto of Kantarara, Kabarole abandoned his land because he was too weak to farm (AIDS profile 2). If AIDS widows are themselves infected with HIV or already ill, they are often weak and therefore unable to work in the shamba.. In Kwapa and Bumanda villages, several widows had ceased farming because they felt it was pointless to grow food when they did not know if they would survive the season. This was echoed widely across villages: "Why plan for tomorrow when you know you will go [die] today?" said one man in Kabarole. In other instances, if a mother has a sick child, she may have to neglect the shamba in order to care for it. Therefore, the impact on agriculture may also be indirect.
Once shambas are neglected, AIDS-afflicted families become almost entirely dependent on-relatives or neighbours for food and basic necessities. In extreme cases, AIDS-afflicted families may experience severe food shortages and hunger. A case in point is Loi (AIDS Profile 3) of Kwapa village, Tororo. A widow suffering from AIDS, she was severely undernourished as a result of skipping meals regularly and confining her diet to one or two foods. Loi was caught in a vicious circle of being unable to grow food because she was not getting enough to eat and was therefore not strong enough to work in the shamba.
Eunice, widow, 23, has two orphans, 4 and 2 years and lives in Bumanda village, Tororo. Her husband, a farmer, died of AIDS one month before we interviewed her. Both of her children have been sick for a long time, and she believes they are also infected with AIDS.
Eunice has not been able to work in the shamba for at least three months due to her husband's illness and the fact that the family has lost three other members in the last month, two of whom are suspected to: have died of AIDS. She is already experiencing food shortages and about once a week prepares only one meal a day. The family diet consists mostly of cassava and millet bread, occasionally with smoked fish. She said she had no money to buy salt or cooking oil.
Figure 7: When AIDS Disrupts the Production Cycle
Benaleta, 33, is an AIDS widow with five children 2, 4,7, 8 and 9 years of age. She lives in Bwabya village in Kabarole. Her husband died of AIDS in early 1993 and she fears that the 2-year-old and she may also be infected. Benaleta has been unable to plant -this year and the land has been neglected because of other two burials in the family (her husband's two brothers). Each burial means that she cannot work on the land for at least a month, she said.
Figure 8: Abandoning the Shamba
However, it should be noted that while agricultural labour shortages were observed at the family level in all villages visited, these were not acute enough to have a significant effect on agricultural productivity at the village level.
The extended family network is also often unable to withstand the strain of the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Poor families, in particular, with infirm children and grandparents that take in one or several orphans find that they cannot support even their own children properly.
In Pierina's case (see Figure 9), the impact of HIV/AIDS coincided with her husband's paralysis and her own illness. The burden of the AIDS orphans has virtually made it impossible for the family to cope. Pierina herself needs to go to the hospital to receive treatment but says that her sick child and husband are more in need of treatment than herself. Yet, the weaker she gets, the more difficult it will be for her to take care of the children and the infirm. Her case illustrates the fact that in many cases, the extended family may be in a weak position to cope with the AIDS epidemic in the first place. In such cases, the HIV/AIDS burden may strain the extended family network to breaking point.
Pierina, 36, has 8 children -from 3 years to 20 years, seven of whom are in school, including one who has a congenital disease. Her parents are dead and her elder brother died of AIDS. Her sister and brother-in law also died of AIDS in 1987 at the age of 22 and 25 respectively, leaving her with four orphans. Two of them have since died of AIDS (2 years and 8 months old) and the other two (13 and 11 years old) are in school.
Pierina's husband, an education officer, will retire this year due to a congenital disease that has left him half paralysed. His condition is deteriorating rapidly and Pierina now has similar symptoms. Neither of them are able to work in the shamba anymore and it is the children who are growing the food. When her husband retires, the orphans will have to drop out of school, she said. Pierina is at a loss over what to do with the orphans, pointing out that she does not even know how she will be able to take care of her own children. "If my husband dies, how will I manage with 10 children?" she said.
Figure 9: When the Extended Family is Unable to Bear the Brunt
The same applies to Mary from Kwapa village. Tororo, (see AIDS profile 3), who has witnessed her entire family become infected with HIV. Her stepmother is already burdened with caring for four orphans and a sick husband. Mary's fear is that when she dies, there will be no one to look after her children. Sometimes, she said, this makes her think it may be better if the children do not survive her.
Sometimes, the extended family may not consist of more than one individual. The case of Esther (figure 10), a young woman who heads a household of 11 girls/young women and does not have any support, is not unusual. Esther does not have access to any income-generating activity except for beer brewing. As she does not even have enough food for three meals a day, she cannot think about how she will be able to ensure that her children as well as her brothers' orphans, will stay in school. Esther said that if she had access to training for an income-generating activity that would help her supplement her income and could belong to a youth or farmer group, her situation could improve significantly.
Esther, 35 years, was separated from her husband 10 years ago. She now takes care of her three children in addition to three orphans that her brother left. A customs officer in Arua District, her brother died in 1992 and his wife died in 1993 of AIDS. Both her parents are dead. Her sick stepmother lives with her. She is also taking care of her late husband's 17-year-old daughter from another wife and her young child. Esther is the head of an 11 -member household, all of whom are women.
Esther came to this village when her brother died. He left two acres of land where she grows maize, groundnuts, cassava and sweet potatoes for consumption. The children only work in the shamba on: Saturdays. She sometimes hires casual labourers and pays them in kind. She brews waragi, but said it is hardly an income-generating activity as it is labour-intensive and yields very little profit. As she has no other alternative, however, she continues to brew and with the cash buys soap, salt and fish/meat. She only serves two meats a day: leftovers for breakfast and sorghum, sometimes with potatoes and greens, for dinner. During the "hungry season," (March to April), she works as a casual labourer for 500 USh ($.45) a day and provides one meal a day for her family.
Her children are 13, 11 and 8 years old and are all in school. Now that her sister-in-law is dead, she is unable to pay school fees for the orphans. She foresees that they will have to be taken out of school and is pessimistic about their future.
Figure 10: When a widow has to support 11 people
b. The Health Status of the Nuclear/Extended Family may Deteriorate
i. The Nutritional Status of the Family May Decline
Loss of access to labour in the shamba may result in declining agricultural productivity which in combination with loss of cash income often leads to a deterioration of the quality of household diet and a reduction in the number of meals. Malnutrition is on the rise in Gulu among AIDS afflicted families. Lacor Hospital's Assistant Medical Superintendent said that kwashiorkor, which was never a problem in the past, had since three years ago become the main reason for child admission in the hospital, especially during the "hungry season".
It should be noted, however, that in Tororo and Gulu the decline in the quantity and quality and quantify of food consumption may also be the result of the "hungry season" (May-July) which affects poorer families, rather than a result of HIV/AIDS per se. It can be argued, however, that AIDS-affected families are harder hit during the "hungry season."
Hunger among AIDS-afflicted households was not witnessed in Kabarole. AIDS-afflicted families may have reduced the number of meals per day and resorted to a less varied diet but they still had enough to eat. This may be due to the fact that land is more fertile in Kabarole and farming systems are more resistant than those in Tororo and Gulu. Farming systems in Tororo (with the exception of lyolwa county) and Gulu are more fragile. In Tororo, the soil is less fertile and food crops like cassava, sorghum and millet are more labour-intensive and need more attention. The seasonality of crops is also an important factor. In Kabarole, for instance, matoke can be harvested all year round. This is not the case with sorghum and millet in Tororo. Tororo is also suffering from drought and its sandy soils may be affected more severely. The district has a high population density and the land is cultivated beyond carrying capacity. In addition, the diet in Tororo is poorer because fresh vegetables are not readily available throughout the year. Vegetables (greens, tomatoes, eggplant, okra and pumpkin) are only available during the rainy season. In addition, vegetables need extra preparation, oil-and-spices which poor people cannot afford. Lastly, people in Tororo are not aware of the nutritional value of vegetables.
Declining agricultural productivity and loss of income often force widows to modify the family diet, and in particular to:
* Limit the Household Diet to One or Two Staple Foods
As a result of reducing the number of crops under cultivation and/or switching to less labour-intensive crops, the diet becomes restricted to one or two starches (finger millet and cassava, matoke, or poshio (maize porridge], often of poor nutritional value, that are served with a vegetable sauce. Pew widows had money for meat/fish, cooking oil and some were no longer able to afford salt.
In Bwabya, Kabarole, one widow said that her family's diet changed drastically after her husband's death. When he was alive, she regularly bought oil for frying, milk, sugar, salt, maize flour for porridge, and soap. These days, she can only afford paraffine, salt, matches and soap. Food preparation has suffered as a result and the quality and nutritional value of the household diet have been affected.
* Reduce the Number of Meals
Widows may be forced to reduce the number of meals they provide for their families. In Kabarole, the number of meals was in some cases reduced from three to two and in Tororo and Gulu from two to one. Young widows reported regularly skipping meals (especially lunch) thereby jeopardizing their health and their ability to take care of their families.
Oliva, a widow in her early 30s, lives in Kantarara village, Kabarole, with her five orphans. Her youngest child is 3 and her oldest is 10. Her husband, an extension worker, died, most probably of AIDS, a year ago. Since then, she began skipping lunches in order to devote more time to the shamba. She also said that the quality of food she prepared for her children had suffered because she had less time to make nutritious meals and fewer vegetables and beans.
Figure 11: Less Time to Prepare Nutritious Food
* Sell Part of their Produce to Buy Essential Goods and Medicine
Widows may be forced to sell part of the food they grow in order to maintain basic levels of hygiene and tend to their children's medical needs. Selling food crops to buy soap, matches and drugs was common, particularly in Tororo.
ii. Resources for Essential Medical Care and Treatment May be Depleted
Families affected by HIV/AIDS are required to spend most of the household budget treating family-members with AIDS. As a result, there is often little money left to tend to children's health needs. The first expenditure to be cut when the household budget has been depleted is essential drugs, according Helen Onyango of TASO Tororo. Widows are often reluctant to use the household budget to tend to their own medical needs and will postpone treatment in order to accommodate the needs of their children. The long-term consequences of this strategy are often disastrous for the family and by the time women go to the doctor, they are already quite ill and unable to care for their children.
c. Education may be Discontinued
According to TASO Tororo, one in five children of AIDS-affected households in the district remain in school. AIDS afflicted families are often forced to take their children out of school either because they have no money for school fees or else because they need the children's labour. Families who receive orphans are faced with the dilemma of having to select which children to put through school. Boys are usually chosen over girls. In some cases, when all children cannot be accommodated, relatives are forced to select their own children over the orphans.
The AIDS stigma sometimes pressures children to drop out of-school. In the case of Toro, (AIDS Profile 1), her son was virtually ostracized from school because his father had died of AIDS, dropping out of school altogether. Toro feared that skipping school could lead to dropping out of school altogether.
Janet, a nurse, whose HIV-positive husband died of lung cancer in October 1991, has three children, 21, 18 and 16 years of age. Her first born wanted to become a doctor but as Janet did not have enough money for all three to go to school, he is now a Nursing Officer and is not paid a full salary. Her second child is in Teachers' College in Mbale District. The third is in Senior 4 in Kampala. Janet lives alone in the village and her children visit her only during the holidays.
She has one acre of land which belongs to her father-in-law but it is not enough to provide for her family. She sells passion fruit and bananas to raise extra money. Her salary as a nurse is only 13,000 Sh per month, all of which is spent toward school fees. Fees for one term for her daughter in S4 amount to 80,000 USh. Janet sent her children to Kampala and Mbale to get their education due to the war and has not wanted to uproot them. Janet never left the village during the war. She tended the crops during the day and "I went to the bush to sleep at night; I kept quiet." The reason she did not leave the village was that she had to provide for her children and sick husband. "You must go hungry, you must go without clothes, you must make everything you possibly can to make ends meet and provide for the children," she said. And yet Janet was devastated by what she called the near total lack of opportunities for children without education. Their only alternative, she said, was to return to the village where they had land.
Figure 12: When Paying for Education Becomes a Struggle
d. The Value System of the Nuclear and Extended Family May be Eroded
The socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS is beginning to have an effect on the value system of the family as traditional norms and customs are breaking down under the pressures triggered by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The result is that the social fabric of the extended family is showing signs of erosion and the close bonds that hold family members together are disappearing. To give but some examples: i) the stigma attached to those infected with HIV/AIDS is as discussed above, in some cases, breaking up families and distancing widows from their children; ii) parents are forced to either send their children to work or to take them out of school. In both cases, youths are being deprived of family life education which is instrumental in establishing a code of conduct between men and women and husbands and wives. Many parents attribute early sexual activity and multiple/casual partners to the disappearance of family life education; iii) in some areas, families are being forced to adjust burial rites and ceremonies (both in terms of time and money spent) to cope with economic pressures resulting from HIV/AIDS; and iv) traditions in both cases, youths are being deprived of family life education which is instrumental in establishing a code of conduct between men and women and husbands and wives. Family life education is critical in the social development of young men and women, ensuring the transmission of family values, mores and norms, establishing a social/sexual code of conduct and setting limits in sexual conduct. Many parents attribute early sexual activity and multiple/casual partners to the disappearance of family life education;
iii) in some areas, families are being forced to adjust burial rites and ceremonies to cope with economic pressures resulting from HIV/AIDS. Firstly, the mourning time is being shortened to only three to four days. Secondly, less money is being spent. And thirdly, the drinking and socialization taking place during burials is changing to discourage substance abuse and casual sex; and
iv) traditions such as ritual cleansing10 and wife inheritance are threatening the well-being of the extended family as a result of HIV/AIDS but no acceptable alternative mechanisms have been developed.
10 In many parts of Uganda, the spouse of a deceased person has sexual intercourse with a family member to be "cleansed" and to free the dead person's spirit.
2.4.4 Conclusion: Implications of KAP for behaviour change
11 Knowledge and awareness appear to be used interchangeably in AIDS terminology, despite the limitations of this tautology. While the distinction between knowledge and attitude can in some instances appear unclear, knowledge is interpreted as what shapes attitudes. This does not preclude, however, the fact that the relationship between knowledge and attitudes is a dynamic one, with one reinforcing the other and vice versa.
In all three districts, it was observed that HIV/AIDS education initiatives primarily concentrate along the highways but do not reach villages even a few miles off the main road. Knowledge of HIV/AIDS is directly linked to distance from towns and roads. In general terms, people were better informed about HIV/AIDS in Kabarole than in Tororo and were very poorly informed in Gulu.
A recent ACP evaluation reported that "Awareness of AIDS [in Uganda] was found to be almost universal. Levels of basic knowledge about AIDS, particularly sexual transmission, were very high."12 As a result. HIV/AIDS initiatives are now focusing on the next step - translating knowledge into behaviour change by empowering people to make informed decisions about sex.
12 R. Moodie, A. Katahoire, et al.. An Evaluation Study of Uganda AIDS Control Programme's Information. Education and Communication Activities. ACP (MOH) and WHO, 1991.
In all six villages visited, the professed 80-90% awareness of HIV/AIDS that was quoted by many district officials, was incorrect. In one focus group discussion in Lawiye Adul in Gulu. 4 out of 13 women had never heard about HIV/AIDS and 8 did not know the modes of transmission. In four villages in Tororo and Gulu, villagers initially denied that HIV/AIDS was a problem in their communities and attributed HIV/AIDS to witchcraft.
The TASO general manager in Tororo argued that "People may know what AIDS is [in Tororo], but they lack even the most basic facts about the disease." One reason why knowledge of HIV/AIDS has not been effectively imparted is that often it is taught in a top down one-way process rather than shared in an interactive manner. Teachers make assumptions about the level of knowledge of men and women that are often erroneous. When out-of-school youths do not understand something, they may be reluctant to ask questions for fear of being ridiculed. This is especially true of out-of-school girls.
Our focus, group discussions revealed that even when people knew the basic facts about the disease, they understood very little about the dynamics of HIV/AIDS. Knowledge of the modes of transmission and prevention exists largely on a theoretical level: people can quote how the disease is transmitted but they do not understand how this may actually happen to them. As a result, this knowledge is academic and abstract, rather than practical and tangible, and does not relate to the individual's own life experience. It is the kind of knowledge that comes from memorizing rather than grasping issues. And even when women did have the basic facts about HIV/AIDS, they were not confident with what they knew about the disease and did not feel empowered by this knowledge. One reason for this is that most HIV/AIDS messages have been health-oriented and have not been integrated in the overall social context.
This partly explains the prevailing stereotype that was observed in all three districts - that it is the women who are responsible for spreading HIV/AIDS. This stereotype has inflicted a heavy stigma on women and is a formidable obstacle to behaviour change as many men absolve themselves from responsibility by automatically blaming the women for the transmission of the HIV virus.
Another factor which demonstrates that people have not understood the basic facts about HIV/AIDS is the abundance of misconceptions. In Gulu and Tororo, some people thought that those with blood type 0 are less likely to get HIV/AIDS. A point of concern in all three districts was the transmission of HIV/AIDS through mosquitoes. In Bumanda, Tororo it was argued that someone who has malaria always tests HIV positive. In Kabarole, women and men believe that those who have syphilis or gonorrhoea do not get infected with -HIV. Abstinence was perceived to be unhealthy, especially among young males. One male youth said that teachers at school had told them that if they abstained from sex, the tail of the sperm would fall off.
The significance of STDs in the spread of HIV/AIDS is still unknown to most rural Ugandans and the incidence of STDs appears to be very high. In Tororo, STDs are rampant but men and women know very little about them. In Kabarole, people were more aware of STDs and usually sought treatment. Some young people, however, said that the cost of seeking medical attention was too prohibitive. In Gulu, many women did not know much about syphilis and gonorrhoea and did not know that STDs can be treated. Some women knew about HIV/AIDS but not about STDs. In Bumanda, Tororo District, some people suffering from STDs were using veterinary drugs given to them by retired Veterinary Officers. Both men and women were eager to have more information on STDs and how they can be prevented.
On the whote, five general observations were made in all districts concerning knowledge of HIV/AIDS:
a. Adult men are far better informed about HIV/AIDS than adult women.
Men are more mobile, have more access to information and have more leisure time to socialize and exchange ideas. HIV/AIDS is often discussed in the bars, for instance. In addition, some men have the opportunity to attend HIV/AIDS sensitization seminars. Not a single woman in the villages we visited had attended one. Training of religious leaders and opinion-makers has also tended to be male-oriented and all the men who had been trained and sensitized in HIV/AIDS issues had not shared the knowledge with their wives or fellow villagers. In addition, health and community workers who are engaged in HIV/AIDS sensitization tend to be men. Many reported that women were "not interested in health issues," but when they were asked if they had actually approached women to discuss HIV/AIDS, they admitted that they rarely did so. In Nyankuku, Kabarole, women said that no health workers ever visited their village but pointed out that since most health workers were men, they could not discuss with them intimate problems such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV/AIDS in the first place.
b. School youths are far better informed than out-of-school youths.
Although school and out-of-school youths are not distinct groups, one can trace substantial differences. School youths have direct access to information, greater opportunities and more choices in life. They are easy to reach, organize and monitor and for this reason they have been targeted extensively by governmental and non-governmental organizations working on HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS education is now part of the school syllabus at the P5 and P6 levels. Findings from the school questionnaires distributed in three districts reveal that schoolchildren are considerably better informed about HIV/AIDS than out-of-school youths. In one school in Gulu, young boys and girls were even knowledgeable about condoms, in sharp contrast to out-of-school youths. Teachers confirmed that school boys are beginning to use condoms.
Out-of-school youths consist mostly of young men and women who have had little or no schooling. They constitute over 50% of the youth between the ages of 15 and 19.13 Young women are by far the majority in this group. Out-of-school youths are hard to reach and difficult to target. They have little access to information, are often intimidated and lack self-confidence. They are rarely given the opportunity to learn about health issues and even in the rare instances where sensitization sessions are held, they are not specifically invited, made welcome and involved in discussion.13 UNICEF, Safeguard Youth From AIDS, New Phase of UNICEF Support for AIDS Control in Uganda, April 1992.
c. School boys are better informed than school girls.
In all the schools visited, boys of 13-15 had a better understanding of the issues than girls of the same age. This may largely be a result of the fact that many young men have a P7 education while most girls drop out at the P3-P4 level before they begin HIV/AIDS education at the P5 and P6 level.
d. Adult women are better informed than young out-of-school girls.
Several adolescent girls (married as well as single) in the six villages visited had never heard about "SLIM." In Nyankuku, Kabarole and in Bumanda. Tororo, out-of-school girls had heard about the disease but had confused information about transmission and prevention. Adult women appear to be better informed, mostly because they are more confident in raising sexual issues with their husbands while younger women feel too shy or intimidated by their spouses.
e. Sex/AIDS education within the family is almost non-existent.
In all three districts, parents do not discuss sex and HIV/AIDS with their children. Some parents fear that talking to their children about sex and HIV/AIDS may encourage them to become sexually active. Others find it too sensitive and embarrassing.
Most adolescents learn about sex and sexuality from their friends. For instance, the Medecins Sans Frontieres AIDS Control Programme in Moyo District found that only 16% of the people surveyed had subsequently discussed HIV/AIDS with their children. HIV/AIDS education campaigns have not been very successful in breaking down this taboo. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that in all three districts, young widows who had lost their husbands to AIDS and were themselves infected, had not revealed to their children the cause of death of their father or their own sero-status. Loi (AIDS Profile 3) has not been able to tell her daughter about her condition and has not talked with her about HIV/AIDS. Another widow in Bwabya, Kabarole, whose husband recently died of AIDS had not even considered telling her children about HIV/AIDS because they were not sexually active. When it was pointed out to her that children in the village were known to start at an even younger age than her children, she was surprised but said she could not bring herself to think that her children could ever be infected with HIV. With only one exception, infected widows had never discussed AIDS with their children. A frequently given explanation was: "I could not bring myself to tell my children." Often, it is during the burial that children find out the cause of death of their father from relatives or neighbours and their mother's sero-status.
"Youth still feels free from AIDS" remarked the DMO in Tororo, indicating that youths are carefree, fearless and feel they are invincible. This is largely true of rural youths whose attitudes can be extremely cynical. "The only medicine to AIDS is death itself," said one young man in Bwabya, Kabarole. A 25-year-old woman who recently died of AIDS in the same village, was reported to have had sex with "everyone she could mess with" in search of revenge.
The fact that in Tororo and Gulu villagers initially denied that AIDS was a problem in their communities partly shows that proper sensitization has not taken place and also explains why many people attribute HIV/AIDS to witchcraft. For some, witchcraft is far more acceptable an explanation than AIDS, which is associated with immorality. In Gulu, many people thought that AIDS was a form of punishment for evil deeds. A born again Christian in Tororo wondered if AIDS was the incurable disease that, according to the Bible, would come at the end of the world. Denial of the problem and witchcraft were not prevalent in Kabarole where people talked openly about HIV/AIDS.
Attitude is-directly linked to knowledge or the absence of knowledge. The fact that many rural youths have largely an abstract knowledge of HIV/AIDS explains why they blame the HIV positive partner for transmitting the HIV virus rather than themselves for engaging in high risk sexual behaviour. As a result, messages are not internalized, knowledge is ignored or dismissed, and does not translate into behaviour change. In Gulu, Mr. James Lomoro, District Inspector of Schools, argued that even actors are not abiding by the messages they communicate through plays addressing HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS messages are viewed as a nuisance, he added, and when they recommend pre-marital abstinence, young people laugh it off.
The less people know about the disease the more negative they tend to be about HIV/AIDS afflicted and affected families. Some men and women suggested isolating AIDS patients in camps, and since "these people are going to die anyway", they thought that resources should be reallocated toward AIDS prevention for those who are free of HIV. Attitudes toward AIDS organizations can also be negative. In Bumanda, Tororo, some people blamed TASO for the spread of HIV/AIDS, claiming that TASO helped sick people recover and resume sexual activity. As a result, clients do not want to be visited by the TASO vehicle, and councillors often have to park their car far from the client's home.
Tradition is often stronger than knowledge and it can make people overlook the dangers of HIV/AIDS, according to Helen Onyango of TASO Tororo. For instance, a father who has lost a son to AIDS may still encourage his daughter-in-law to be inherited. And as discussed above, wife inheritance has not been challenged yet except in isolated cases, despite the dangers it entails.
Attitudes toward the "faithful partner" prevention strategy, are ambivalent and concern was raised over trusting one's partner: "I have a [girl]friend who lives in a village about five miles from here," said a young man. "I go there, perhaps every two weeks. How can I know what she does when I am not there?" Another one said: "The girls around here are very smart. They attract you in all ways and tell you they are healthy. What can we do?" And another: "How can we live without eating?" referring to the difficulty of being faithful to one partner or resorting to abstinence.
Attitudes toward blood testing were overwhelmingly positive, particularly among young women who feared they may be infected with HIV. Testing for HIV before marriage was also raised as a must. Some youths were skeptical about the reliability of the HIV test and did not understand the need to have more than one test to account for the "window period." Youths wanted practical advice on how to go about persuading a partner to get the AIDS test. The need for communication and negotiation skills emerged as a critical issue in HIV/AIDS prevention among young people.
a. Early Sexual Activity
Adolescents are most at risk because they tend to experiment more than married couples and have many sexual partners. For girls, adolescence may be very brief as childhood, marriage and parenthood are often very close together.
It has been reported that sexual activity in Uganda begins between the ages of 10 and 15 and that the average age of first sexual intercourse for boys and girls in Uganda is about 15 years.14 Preliminary findings of a research proposal on the sexual behaviour of out-of-school adolescents (15-18 years of age) indicate that for both sexes, the reported age of first sexual activity is from 8 to 14 years and that penetrative sex begins at about 13 years. Some studies have found that more than 40% of girls have had sexual intercourse before the age of 14 years.15 Factors contributing to early sexual activity include poverty, overcrowding and urbanization.16
14 UNICEF, SYFA, ibid.
15 Uganda AIDS Commission, National Operational Plan for HIV/AIDS/STD Prevention
16 Bukisa, E., Rubagiza. J., Kavuma, L, Banura, C. and Lwanga, J., Research Proposal to Assess the Knowledge. Attitudes and Practices of Adolescents Towards HIV/AIDS and STD Infections in Two Selected Areas with a View to Develop Strategies for Behaviour Change, February 1993.
In Tororo District, a study of adolescent mothers conducted in 1990 revealed that 70% became sexually active between the ages 10 and 14 while 10% became active before the age of 10. These figures correspond closely with our findings.
Youths in all three districts are engaging in sexual activity increasingly younger for the following reasons:
i. Children share the same hut with their parents until they are 10-12 years old. Lack of privacy means that children are present when their parents have sex, become curious and want to try it themselves.
ii. Parents do not talk to their children about sex. Oftentimes, youths become sexually active before they are aware of the consequences and dangers involved not only in terms of HIV/AIDS but also in terms of pregnancy and the contraction of STDs.
iii. Parents do not spend enough time with their children and many youths, feeling neglected, turn to sex to compensate for the lack of attention.
iv. When girls and boys visit each other, they bring cousins, relatives and friends along with them. They sometimes spend the night with the extended family or friend. These occasions provide opportunities for sex.
v. Poverty often means that youths lack basic essentials and are willing to have sex in exchange for food, clothes, shoes, school fees, and other rewards or favours. In one school in Tororo district, most of the sexually active P6 girls had sex in return for food, clothing, money or a gift.
vi. In homes where alcohol is consumed by one or both parents, sexual activity among their children begins earlier, sometimes as early as 6-8 years.
vii. In Lawiye Adul, Gulu, boys of 13-14 years of age leave the parental home and are given their own separate homestead. This practice means that the family exercises little control over the sexual behaviour of their children thereafter. Parents argued that this custom encouraged early sexual activity.
viii. According to one school questionnaire, 27 out of 184 primary school children in Uganda who had had sexual intercourse reported that it was "forced."17 Forced intercourse may be violent and may result in lacerations and bleeding, thereby increasing the risk of HIV transmission.17 Bagarukeyo, H. KAP study on AIDS among school pupils in Kabale District, 1991
Opinions on the onset of sexual activity varied considerably in the districts visited. Sexual activity in Tororo begins at around 10 for boys and around 8 for girls, according to Ms. Penninah Namusi, TASO Councillor Supervisor. School girls start having sex at 13 years and schoolboys at 15 years, but girls who are not in school can start as early as 9 years of age, reported teachers of Kwapa Primary School. Parents in Nyankuku village in Kabarole said that Children begin sexual activity at around 10 years. Women in Bwabya village. Kabarole, indicated that youngsters become sexually active from 8 years upward and this is directly connected to alcohol consumption. In Bumanda, Tororo, parents said that girls start sexual activity at 12 years and boys at around 14 years.
The phenomenon of "sugar mummies." older affluent women who seduce and often marry younger men in the belief that the latter are free from HIV, and "sugar daddies," is recent and not widely prevalent in rural areas as it is in urban areas. In Nyankuku. Kabarole, where there is a technical college/trading center nearby on the way to the primary school, many schoolgirls are befriended by older men who promise them money and luxuries. Girls reported that the risk of being approached for sex increased on their way to or from school, on the way to the well and on the way to the market.
b. Early Marriage/Unions and Childbearinq
In all three districts, people reported that young men and women are getting married or raise families without being officially married at increasingly younger these days. In Tororo, according one TASO Councillor, girls marry as young as 13 and 15 years of age. Some boys marry at 16. Girls may already have one or two children before they marry. In Nyankuku, Kabarole, men marry at 18, women at around 15 and some marriages are arranged. Teenage pregnancies and high divorce rates are a big problem in Kabarole district. In Gulu, divorce rates are high these days because, according to a farmer, people are not prepared for marriage.
One of the reasons for early marriage is the rising cost of living and the economic value of women. The bride wealth, which the groom pays for the bride, in Gulu, for instance, used to be a gift of 5 or more cows. One criterion for the amount to be paid is the level of education of the bride. These days, as cows are not available, bride wealth is paid in cash. Early marriage means early realization of the economic value of a daughter and parents who are struggling to raise many children may choose to marry off their adolescent daughters earlier than they would have in different circumstances.
The link between education and early sexual activity is highly controversial and opinions vary as to whether education delays or encourages early sexual activity and whether it plays a role in the number of sexual partners youths have. Opinions seem to be equally divided both among youths, teachers, parents and opinion leaders.
Male youths in Nyankuku village believe that education has contributed to early sexual behaviour because "girls don't fear boys anymore and so they play sex at an early age." A youth leader in Kabarole believed that boarding schools have increased encouraged early sexual activity largely because they have deprived youths of family life education. Many parents argued that school children today are given freedom too suddenly and do not know how to handle it. When rich men from the town approach schoolgirls in the village with motorcycles and expensive attaché briefcases promising gifts, girls do not know how to respond since they have not been taught how to deal with this type of situation. An additional problem is that a number of girls are having sexual relations with their teachers in primary school.
Opinions also vary as to the vulnerability of school versus out-of-school youth to HIV; county officials and extension workers in Kabarole believe that school youths are not afraid of HIV/AIDS and therefore tend to be more sexually active and have more casual partners. Others argued that school youths are more aware of HIV/AIDS and thus more likely to protect themselves and be faithful.
Figure 14: Sexual Activity Among School and Out-of-School Youths
As bride wealth rates are increasing, however, many young men have to wait many years before they can marry. Their options are: a) to live with women and not be formally married; this option, which is widely prevalent in Kabarole and Gulu, may encourage high risk sexual behaviour as unmarried men may be less inclined to be faithful to their partner; and b) to live alone until they are able to provide the bride's family with the bride wealth (which could amount to several years), in which case they may have multiple sexual partners, become infected with HIV and eventually infect their wives-to-be.
In Kabarole and Gulu, these changes in courtship/unions are jeopardizing women's socio-economic status: In the past, women in Kabarole indicated, when women got pregnant, men had to marry them, pay the bride wealth and assume responsibility for the children. These days, they often abandon the women they impregnate or else they do not (often cannot)-pay the bride wealth. If a man does not pay the bride wealth, the couple is not considered to be officially married, according to customary law, and women's status within the community is at best precarious. She does not have the social recognition and legal rights that married women enjoy. This trend largely explains the large number of orphans in Kabarole. Women argue that when men do not feel obligated to marry pregnant women or pay the bride wealth, they are free to have more partners and shoulder fewer responsibilities.
The reason for the crisis within the family was largely attributed to the war. Insecurity, displacement of people, break-up of families, raping, death, and poverty all contribute to the breakdown of traditional courtship, marriage, and an erosion of the social fabric as a whole. AIDS has also compounded this trend by adding new pressures on to young men and women.
c. Multiple Sexual Partners/Casual Sexual Contacts
In Kabosa, Tororo, one young man said that by the age of 20, a man may have had as many as 50 sexual partners. A recent TASO questionnaire revealed that at any given time, men had up to 3-5 partners and women had up to 2-3 partners. According to the same source, in the past men had up to 8 partners. Both sexes admitted to having multiple partners in and out of marriage in all three districts. In Kabosa, women said that as many as 3/4 of married women were unfaithful to their husbands. Women blame the men and men blame the women for promiscuity.
Very few rural youths appear to be making informed decisions on sexual behaviour in the face of HIV/AIDS and denial of the problem continues to prevail. "Let come what comes... AIDS is only for the day; during the night it is not there," said one man in Bwabya, Kabarole. Echoes of this argument were heard in all three districts. Some were underpinned with despair, others with hopelessness and apathy.
As argued above, one of the main reasons why few people are translating knowledge into behaviour change is that the knowledge they have is largely academic and abstract and they have difficulty internalizing it. Another reason is that the knowledge of HIV/AIDS is not contextualized within a social framework, but is isolated in a strictly health/sexual level. Sexual behaviour may be very difficult to change in isolation from social norms, customs and leisure activities available for young people.
Thus, alcohol and drug abuse, bars and discos, are not tackled as issues that significantly influence social and sexual behaviour, and messages promoting faithful relationships may be hard for youths to rationalize. For instance, for a male youth who feels he has no opportunities in the village, has little education, drinks heavily and frequents the local disco regularly, and is restless and demoralized, the "faithful partner" message is both abstract and irrelevant. He may not identify with it and have little use for it.
A conversation among two young men in Kabosa village. Tororo, is particularly illuminating in-terms of the limitations of knowledge people have of HIV/AIDS but also in terms of the significance of the socio-cultural context.
"I am married, my parents died, I must be careful."
"You are married, but how can you be careful when a woman passes by, more beautiful than your wife?"
"Can I accept-to lose my life, just because of a beautiful lady?"
"The problem is when you are drunk."
"When I am a little drunk. I go home. There I can drink more and go to sleep."
In this case, the first young man is trying to remain faithful by resorting to heavy drinking, which may at first glance appear to indicate behaviour change but is a very deceptive and dangerous type of behaviour change which may even backfire in the long run. Yet, at first glance, it could qualify as behaviour change in terms of risk to HIV/AIDS. The second young man also points out that behaviour change is sensible, but relates that common sense dissipates with drinking.
People's knowledge of HIV/AIDS often contains big gaps which prevent them from effecting behaviour change. For instance, many young men and women, single and married, expressed the desire to be tested for HIV as a first step toward changing their sexual behaviour. Most, however, had not gone for testing either because they did not know where to go or else because they thought it was very costly. One youth in Kabarole estimated the cost of an HIV test around 10,000 USh when in fact it is available for 500 USh. Another youth in Tororo thought that an AIDS test cost at least 7,000 USh.
To conclude, behaviour change strategies that do not address socio-cultural norms, including early sexual behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse, bar and disco culture, ritual cleansing and wife inheritance, etc, but only hinge on sexual behaviour per se are not likely to be effective, particularly among youths. This may also explain why behaviour change is reported to be very difficult to measure. If behaviour change was also measured in terms of changing patterns in alcohol consumption and drug use, frequency of bar visits, etc., perhaps a more accurate picture of behaviour change would emerge.
This may also explain why previous strategies like "Love Carefully," and "Zero Grazing" have had a limited impact in Uganda. In Bumanda, Tororo, zero grazing was described by young men as an ideal that is very hard to put into practice, particularly during social occasions like burials where drinking is an integral part of the festivities. If behaviour change is to be effective, it should involve the youth itself in the generation of appropriate messages and incorporate social and cultural factors that influence sexual behaviour. For instance, one youth in Kabosa, Tororo, who had tested negative in 1992, advised his friend to go and get tested with his partner. To persuade her to go for testing and break the ice, he suggested that he tell his girlfriend "Let's go to town and I will show you how much I love you."
In addition, youths requested practical advice on alternatives to abstinence and were eager to discuss and share ideas rather than be told not to engage in sexual activity. Creating a forum for discussion, where respect for HIV/AIDS as well as for young people's sexual needs co-exist can help generate appropriate messages.
While faithful relationships and abstinence are by far the most important and effective strategies against HIV/AIDS, condom use is particularly important for youths, particularly adolescents and single young adults of both sexes.
Men believe that women dislike condoms because they fear they can remain inside their bodies. Women claim that "men completely resent the idea of condoms," especially those who are not educated. Both men and women believe that bringing up the subject of condoms shows lack of respect towards the partner. Some young men in Kabarole and Tororo had completely misunderstood the purpose of the condom and thought they should use it with their faithful partner. In Bwabya, Kabarole, a young married man wanted to use condoms for child spacing but feared bringing it up with his wife thinking she might think he was being promiscuous. In Bumanda, men said that they would only use condoms with their wives and not with a girlfriend, because the latter would think the men were infected. Young men and women pointed out that after drinking, few people would think of using condoms. Even if one remembered to use a condom, they would ignore it.
Condoms were the least used means for HIV/AIDS prevention in all three districts. Knowledge of-condoms was low among male youths and very low among female youths. To some extent, condoms are still associated with prostitutes or at least with immoral behaviour. One woman in Tororo said her husband brought condoms home and told her it was medicine. Very few men and women had ever seen a condom and proper condom use was almost entirely absent. A minute number of men actually bought and used condoms. In Bwabya, Kabarole, 2 out of 22 men in a focus group discussion had used condoms. In Bumanda, Tororo, 4 men out of 25 had used condoms. Among women, in all six villages only between one and three women had heard of condoms and almost none had seen one. School youths had a much better understanding of condoms and in one school in Gulu, pupils had even had a condom demonstration. Teachers reported that pupils are open to using condoms.
Proper use of condoms is very limited. The fact that condoms can only be used once and then have to be disposed was not known to many people and using one condom for each round of sex was not obvious to either men or women. This has raised confusion on many levels. In Gulu, some young men, particularly soldiers, wash condoms and use them several times over. Sometimes they even share them among each other. In Bwabya, Kabarole, one young man told a story about how he got drunk one night and wanted to have sex. To be safe, he thought he would use three condoms. When he was half way through the sexual act, he said he thought to himself: "Do you eat sweets wrapped in paper?" He threw the condoms out, feeling "cheated." Inaccurate, and/or inadequate information on condoms can easily backfire and discourage or alienate people from using them. In Kabosa, Tororo, the reliability of condoms was questioned and some youths were concerned that condoms may appropriate for certain but not all sexual practices.
Both male and female youths overcame their shyness very quickly and were eager to be informed. In all cases, they invited condom demonstrations. Young women in four out of six villages inquired about the existence of female condoms, pointing out that male condoms were "useless" as women had no control over them. This brings up an important point: that condoms are primarily geared to men. Discussing how to introduce condoms in a relationship and when to use them are just as important as teaching people how to use them properly. Young women are eager to know more about condoms and to learn how to use them properly. Most, in fact, pointed out that even if they never used them, having the knowledge and option to use them was invaluable. Referring youths to places where they can obtain them and/or obtain more information on condoms is also critical.
An important point to mention on condom promotion is that assumptions on people's understanding of condom use should be kept to a minimum. Women were often not aware that the matooke (plantain) or cassava that were used during the sessions were merely demonstration tools. Some thought that they were supposed to insert the condom-clad cassava or matooke in their vagina. Given people's very limited knowledge of and familiarity with condoms in rural areas, condom promotion should deal with medical, family planning. STD and social dimensions and address specific needs, such as their reliability in certain sexual practices.
2.6.1 War, civil strife and demobilization
2.6.2 Changing attitudes toward agriculture
2.6.3 Economic pressures/lack of income-generating opportunities
2.6.4 Increase in school drop out rates
2.6.5 Social factors contributing to high risk behaviour among youths
Uganda has undergone continuous political, economic and social turmoil and change over the last two decades. The interplay and dynamics of change have shaped the lives and attitudes of rural youths and have, in some instances, exacerbated the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on rural families.
War and civil strife have had a profound effect on every facet of people's lives. In Tororo and Gulu, many men and women had to abandon their villages altogether and flee to the towns in search of security. Some continued to farm during the day and slept in the bush at night. Nearly all parents, however, were forced to send their children away and were separated from them for extended periods of time, sometimes even years. Often, children were sent to live with relatives or friends in the towns. After the end of the war, when families began returning to the village, the youths found themselves caught between town and village life and thus between the modern and traditional lifestyles and values. For many youths, the town has become synonymous with opportunity, easy money, and a chance to escape from the hardships of village life, particularly agriculture.
The war had a three-fold impact on young women: they stopped attending school; they married at an increasingly younger age; and they became more vulnerable to the HIV virus (many young women were raped during the war18 and reports from Gulu indicate that a very high proportion of soldiers are infected with HIV).
18 In fact, according to one AIDS councillor in Gulu, men were also raped for revenge.
While the war is now over, demobilization is cause for alarm in the spread of HIV/AIDS. From 1992 to 1994, the government intends to demobilize 5.000 soldiers. In Kabarole and Gulu there is already a high concentration of demobilized soldiers. According to Mr. Egac Rodney Ades, Deputy District Executive Secretary in Gulu, many demobilized soldiers joined the military after P7, at the age of 17 and are still very young. Infection rates among them are very high and their attitude towards HIV/AIDS is often very casual. A soldier's profession is "to kill or to die" and AIDS is, for many soldiers, just another disease. "They are reckless and do not care about HIV/AIDS; their argument is that if bullets have not killed them, AIDS cannot either," said one woman in Nyankuku, Kabarole.
HIV-infected soldiers returning to the villages may be spreading HIV/AIDS to their wives and partners. Many young women are tempted to have sex with soldiers because the latter are associated with power and prestige, and often, they give their girlfriends food and clothing. Few girls are aware of the dangers of HIV infection and even those who may be aware of condoms are not necessarily able to negotiate with their soldier partners to use them.
In Gulu, several girls reported that forced sexual activity has not ceased and that "home guards" force them to have sex, to the point that they fear fetching water from the village well and going to the market to sell their produce.
The combination of a diverse range of factors - including war and civil strife, declining producer prices, the rising cost of living, and drought - has made agriculture less appealing as a profession among an increasing number of male youths in Kabarole and Tororo districts. In Bumanda village, Tororo, youths mentioned that falling prices for agricultural products are discouraging young farmers. In fact, according to the deputy DAO in Kabarole, attitudes toward agriculture are becoming a serious problem in the district. "If you ask a child: 'What does your father do?' You will get the answer, 'Nothing, he is a farmer,'" said the deputy DA. Agricultural productivity in Tororo district is declining because the youth is losing interest in agriculture, according to the DA. "If you look in the gardens you will find only the elderly," he explained. "A man is not supposed to work on the farm. Most work is done by women and children.
Many youths are engaging in petty trade across the border which is more profitable, easier and more promising. This has created an "artificial" labour constraint: young men are not engaging in agricultural activities even though they are often unemployed, have no other occupation or source of income and their work is desperately needed on the shamba.
The adverse impact of HIV/AIDS is further reinforcing negative attitudes and disillusionment with agriculture. In Kabarole youths argued: "Why should [we] dig when [we] may die [from AIDS] next year?" Another said: "How can we think about planting when we do not know if we will be still alive for the harvest?"19
19 FAO's TSS-1 report on "The Effects of HIV/AIDS on Agricultural Production and Rural Livelihood Systems in Uganda" also found that young men's participation in farming activities is "marginal." In Gwanda village, Rakai district, young men prefer fishing and trading to agriculture because of the quick and high returns and because it is easier work.
Youths who do not engage in agriculture have very limited opportunities in the village. Young men who are not in school, in particular, tend to loiter and drink heavily. For young unmarried young mothers with children, many of whom are illiterate and have no access to training, credit and support services - the only way to earn a living is through brewing beer and distilling alcohol. According to the accounts of several women, brewing and selling beer in their houses often means having men drinking around the home and this encourages high risk sexual behaviour.
The absence of on- and off-farm income-generating opportunities in rural areas is encouraging migration to urban centers. Out-of-school youths tend to move to urban centers in search of employment opportunities as housemaids or hawkers. In Tororo, some youths go to Kenya to work on sugar estates, but many more engage in smuggling and petty trade across the border, taking foodstuffs and cotton into Kenya and bringing sugar, bread, and manufactured goods into Uganda. Smuggling has become a way of life for many youths.20 Those who are unable to find jobs in urban centers may spend several months being idle. Survival under these conditions is precarious and desperate living conditions often leads to loitering and alcohol/drug abuse. Some young girls resort to prostitution in order to meet basic needs.
20 According to some district officials, smuggling is now starting to decline, as a result of trade liberalization and the revival of the consumer goods industry (textiles, sugar, soda and beer are getting cheaper.
The rising cost of living and economic pressures have led many youths (particularly males) and their families to contest the value of education, inducing many youths to drop out of school, especially girls. About 60% of pupils in Uganda enroled in P1 drop out before they reach P7, according to government sources for the period 1981-1987. Nearly 60% of girls dropped out of school between 1977 and 1983, according to another estimate.21 In Tororo, only one in five youths go to school, according to the DA. Attendance in Primary is estimated at 40-60%, but falls to 10%-20% at P4-P7. Only 15% of children in Tororo complete P7. A USAID study in Gulu District reported that 71 % of boys and 86% of girls dropped out of school between P1 and P7 in 1990.
21 UNICEF, SYFA, 1992, op. cit.
Most pupils drop out of school because their parents cannot afford to pay for the school fees. When families have to choose which child to send to school, boys are chosen over girls. In all three districts, girls tend to drop out of school at P3 or P4, that is, before they are taught about HIV/AIDS. Marriage is a major reason why girls drop out of school: parents do not often see the need to spend money on their girl children when they know that the latter will eventually leave the home.
School enrolment in some districts is declining not only due to the rising cost of school fees but also because the rising cost of living often means that the children's labour is needed at home (children are involved in weeding, bird scaring, etc.). Similarly, many young men find it more attractive to earn a living through petty trading rather than go to school or engage in agriculture, particularly in Kabarole and Tororo districts. Even teachers are abandoning their profession to engage in petty trading. In the case of children, first, they tend to skip school only occasionally, but eventually they drop out altogether. Some are encouraged by their parents, according to the District Education Officer.
Some parents do not value formal education anymore because they feel they are losing control over their children as a result of it. "In the past, children obeyed their parents, stayed with their parents and helped their parents." said one grandmother in Nyankuku, Kabarole. "Now children go to school, leave the home and do not listen to their parents. I do not know if it is the fault of the school or not, but it certainly seems that way" she concluded. This argument was echoed in all three districts.
The interplay of the above-mentioned factors and the devastation brought about by HIV/AIDS have contributed to the idleness, loitering and hopelessness which prevails among many rural youths. This is reflected in changing social norms and values, and in the way that young men and women relate to each other and interact socially.
a. Alcohol and Drug Abuse
In all three districts, drinking is central to the economy and social life of the family and the community. By and large, the women brew beer and distil alcohol and the men consume it. Local brews include tonto (in Kabarole), waragi (nationwide), quete and adjono. Tonto is obtained from fermenting banana juice by adding sorghum. Distilled tonto yields waragi. Adjono is a type of millet brew. Nearly all alcohol is home-made and is a substantial source of cash income for many households. Half a liter of tonto sells for 50 USh in the village. A tin of waragi (24 liters) is sold for 18,000 USh. One family in Bwabya village earned about 40,000 USh a year from the production of alcoholic drinks. Some families raise money for school fees and for medical treatment while others buy food, paraffin and soap for their families from the sale of alcohol. Some women use the money they get from adjono to hire labour for the shambas.
Poverty and the lack of income-generating activities for women are the principal reasons for alcohol production. For AIDS affected families, brewing and distilling alcohol is often the only means of support. Faibe (see AIDS profile 3) indicated that she could no longer support herself and her mother through agricultural activities without preparing adjono.
Teachers in Kabarole attributed high alcohol consumption to Uganda's protracted war and political turmoil, indicating that people have become demoralized, lost interest in the future and in the future of their children, and resorted to drinking. Many villagers pointed out that alcohol consumption increased substantially during the war as a result of fear, insecurity, dislocation and hardship.
Women and girls who brew alcohol often use young children to sell it. As alcohol is readily available at home, children may begin drinking as early as 8 years of age and learn how to prepare it from 5 years upward. Girls of 12 years are able to prepare it without any help. Some women in Kabarole said that originally they gave their children alcohol to cure coughs and worms.
In addition, the sale of alcohol has given rural women some financial independence: women get to keep the money they earn from brewing and distilling. Some said that this independence has freed them from the confines of the home: "If one's husband has many girlfriends and the wife has her alcohol business and he does not control her movements every night, a woman may also seek other partners," said one woman in Bwabya, Kabarole. At the same time, several women cited alcohol as one of the worse problems facing rural families today and said it contributed to the high divorce rates.
In Tororo, waragi is considered a food and traditionally guests thank their hosts "for the cooking," after drinking together. Some people drink waragi instead of tea in the morning. When a child is given a name, it is also given alcohol to mark the occasion.
In conclusion, drinking is a critical economic activity, an integral part of village culture and catalyst in social interaction. Most villages have makeshift bars. Kabosa. Tororo, has only 40 families and two bars, offering beer at 600 USh. "Drinking is a duty one has to fulfil," one man said in Tororo. Male youths in Kabarole said that men who do not drink are fools, and identified drinking with virility. Youths admitted that when they are drunk, it is very difficult to exercise self-control in terms of sexual activity.
Men drink considerably more than women and out-of-school young men tend to drink more than schoolboys. Women do not drink as much as it is not as culturally acceptable. Wives do not drink with their husbands - a husband who drinks with his wife is looked down upon by his peers, according to young men in Tororo.
Many young women expressed great concern about their husband's drinking and argued that alcoholism in on the increase. Some men, they said, spend a disproportionate share of the family budget on alcohol at the expense of school fees for their children. Other women worry-that under the influence of alcohol, their husbands become careless and have more casual sexual contacts. "They leave early in the morning and come back late at night; we have no time to discuss HIV/AIDS and sex because they are always drunk when they come home; sometimes we know they meet other women in the bars and we fear that they may be infected with AIDS" one woman in Bwabya, Kabarole, said.
In Kabarole, women also raised the point that when their husbands come back drunk from the bar, they demand sex. If their wives suspect they have other partners and refuse to have sex, their husbands may beat them and force them to give in. Many women indicated that if a woman succeeds in fending off her husband, he has the power to send her away and get another wife. In Uganda, as in most cultures around the world, sex is perceived to be a conjugal right that cannot be contested on any grounds. Mothers with young children are especially reluctant to take chances and refuse to have sex with their husbands, even if they suspect them to be infected with HIV. Women also said that whenever they have solicited the assistance of RCs and religious leaders to speak to their husbands about their drinking and multiple partners, their behaviour would improve for one or two weeks and then old patterns would be re-established.
In Kabosa, Tororo District, women wanted influential persons from the district or from outside the village to sensitize their husbands to the dangers of alcohol. When asked if the elders could wield some influence in curtailing alcohol abuse among men and particularly male youths, this was rejected categorically: "The elders have lost the respect of the people because they lost respect for themselves when they started drinking heavily," one woman said.
At present, HIV/AIDS initiatives do not address the problem of alcohol abuse for various reasons: a) the direct link between alcohol and high risk sexual behaviour has not been fully appreciated; b) alcohol production is closely linked to the survival of many poor families, so much so that when the DA in Kabarole tried to take measures to curtail alcohol consumption in the district, he was almost ousted; c) it is feared that linking the AIDS campaign to alcohol may backfire and alienate people from adopting safer sexual practices.
Drug abuse is also a serious problem among male youths in some districts, particularly in Kabarole. Marijuana ("bhang" or "sativa") and "mairungi" from Somalia are used widely in schools, according to Douglas Musana, Manager of the Health Information Center in Fort Portal. Some boys start as early as 10 years of age. In Gulu, drug use is not a recent phenomenon, but consumption has increased significantly among young men in recent years. Some youths in Layibi, Gulu, smoke opium which is also grown by adults as animal feed.
Drug use is not directly responsible for the transmission of HIV but contributes to high risk behaviour that leads to contraction of the HIV virus, much like alcohol abuse. Drug use has not been addressed by HIV/AIDS initiatives as a factor contributing to high risk sexual behaviour.
b. Bars and 'Discos'
Discos, which are among the most popular form of entertainment among youths in Uganda, are a catalyst to sexual activity. The term "disco" is used to describe gatherings of 20-30 youths, between 13 and 30 years of age, where heavy drinking and dancing take place in private homes (see also AIDS profile for a description of discos). High school pupils usually-take their younger sisters and brothers to the discos.
Alcohol drinking is an integral part of disco culture: "If you are not drunk you have not gone to the disco," one young man in Kabarole said. Sometimes there is an entrance fee of around 200 USh or else people collect money to buy alcoholic drinks from the bars.
Discos have largely eradicated traditional courtship. One boy in Kabarole said, "you dance with a girl, then you go [and play sex]... there is nothing more to it..." Another mentioned that body contact during dancing makes it "impossible" to resist having sex afterwards. Traditional dancing does not involve direct body contact but western-style dancing is increasingly popular these days. After dancing western-style, youths said, sex is only "a small step."
Discos were recently banned by PCs in an effort to reduce high risk sexual behaviour but they continue clandestinely. In Kabosa, Tororo, discos took place twice a week in the old days, but at present, they occur mostly spontaneously, usually in the dry season.
To conclude, the interplay of diverse factors - war and instability, the loss of appeal in agriculture as a profession, economic hardship and the absence of income-generating opportunities, the increase in drop-out school rates and alcohol/drug abuse - have contributed to the creation of an environment of high risk behaviour for rural young men and women, education and mitigation interventions need to address the socio-economic realities of young people's lives if they are to be effective.
A last important point: Young men and women, particularly those who are not in school, do not have access to recreational alternatives to drinking and sex. Young men, in particular, often said that a football could be a popular antidote to early sexual activity and to multiple sexual partners. Footballs were not available in any of the villages visited. Few schools have footballs/netballs. In the industrialized world, sports have long been recognized as an important favoured activity among adolescents and young men and women for reasons similar to those stated by youths in Uganda. In the absence of even the most basic forms of recreation, it is hard to envisage AIDS messages creating an impact on young people.