Myth-busting in Busembatia

Myth-busting in Busembatia
27th November 2017

Hailing from the UK, it is incredibly easy to take British ‘sex-ed’ (Sexual Education) classes for granted. From a young age, we are provided with a clear and informative programme which discusses contraceptives, puberty, sexually transmitted infections and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy within a safe and open environment. Though eyes may temporarily glaze over during lessons and laughter may ensue during a condom demonstration, it is clear that this sustained mission to teach British adolescents about how and why they can make informed decisions about their bodies and sexual health is both necessary and effective. Honestly, it’s effectiveness only became crystal clear to me when I began this internship at Women in Leadership and I found myself reminiscing about how teachers once engaged us in the topics using visual aids to accompany detailed talks on anatomy, puberty and STIs.

I thought I had mentally prepared myself for the myths and cultural barriers to teaching about family planning, teenage pregnancy and a range of other topics, but the concerns and worries articulated to me were a far cry from what I had expected. A few years ago, the Ugandan government started the ABC campaign to fight the spread of STIs and HIV – A for Abstinence, B for Be Faithful, C for Condoms. This abstinence-focussed approach may have initially helped to reduce the prevalence of HIV but has also resulted in many communities remaining uninformed about contraceptive options and rumours surrounding their safety to proliferate. During SRH sessions many women and girls share their worries about using long-lasting contraceptive methods such as the oral contraceptive pill, implant and IUD – a repeated belief is that contraceptives cause cancer and infertility. These myths spread to younger generations; within in-school sessions girls and boys told us they believed that contraceptives burnt the throats and digestive systems of teenagers who used them. When we asked classes to share their knowledge of contraceptive methods, some provided correct answers but other answers included soda, paracetamol, different perfumes and body lotions as contraceptives. Even after sessions were complete, some children approached us to ask if contraceptives really were safe to use; their parents and other family members had told them otherwise.

In a country which continues to fight high HIV and STI rates, the need for Sexual and Reproductive health education is clear. The 2017 UNAIDS Global Review Mission to Uganda reported that young people, particularly girls between the age of 15-24 years are disproportionately affected by HIV infection: the prevalence of HIV among adolescent girls stands at 9.1% compared to a national prevalence of 7.3%. Shockingly, two young women are infected with HIV every hour in Uganda.[1]

Educating the community on the best ways to prevent HIV transmission is critical, and acts as a fundamental part of the SRH programme facilitated by Women in Leadership interns within health centres and schools in Busembatia.  The programme involves ‘myth-busting’ inaccurate information, whilst providing clear and accurate information on family planning options, the dangers of unsafe abortion, teenage pregnancy, consent, female genital mutilation, STIs, HIV and Gender Based Violence.

If you are interested in delivering the programme in Spring/Summer 2018, applications for the role of SRH are now open, click here 

Written by Amy Williams


Press Release on HIV Situation in Uganda February 23 2017. Available at:

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