Similar to the large part of the world, the arrival of Covid-19 in Uganda led to an increase in poverty, putting an already vulnerable population at risk. Some of these vulnerable girls turned to transactional sex to get essentials like sanitary towels and other fundamental needs.
Due to this, they were more likely to experience a variety of issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including teenage pregnancies, contracting HIV and other STIs, and being exposed to other dreadful vices like gender-based abuse.
Reach A Hand Uganda conducted a survey, in the communities of Kasese and Fort Portal to learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting young women. Participants in this poll included members of the target community, district officials, health experts, and young people.
According to Kazu Doreen, Nursing Officer at Bukuku H.C. IV, Covid19 has a substantial impact on a number of issues affecting adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Joan (not her real name), a sex worker from kasese, described the numerous difficulties they encounter, such as dealing with a customer who refuses to pay them under the pretext that they can’t eat a candy bar wrapped in polythene paper (a metaphor used to disregard the use of condoms). She claimed that the majority eventually give up since these clients are willing to spend extra.
Mary (not her real name), also a sex worker from Kasese, said that she contracted HIV/AIDS during the pandemic because she was unable to utilize protection.
“Since condoms were readily available, working from the lodge made it simpler for me to safeguard myself. The issue would arise if a customer invited you over to their home and then forced you to engage in unprotected sex” she narrated.
According to Mary (not her real name), this is frequently the case with armed troops who coerce you into having unprotected intercourse whether you want it or not, ending up getting infected with Sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.
Speaking from the Kasese Municipal Health Clinic, Dr. Basega Yusuf, the district health officer, also mentioned that the department for adolescent health has been receiving more cases of sexually transmitted diseases, and some of these young people are turning out to be HIV positive.
He went on to say that his team was going door-to-door to persuade parents to send their young daughters to school and educate them to a higher level because so many of them were quitting school, engaging in transactional sex work, and getting married at an early age because they were unable to continue their studies.
Kacancu Joseph, Chairperson – Kiganda Mwaro mentioned of young people who are living with HIV are hesitant to go for HIV treatment. He recommended that the medications be brought closer so that they can easily access them.
He continued by saying that civil society organizations should constantly provide knowledge that impacts better decision-making and changes behavior.
When asked why it is difficult for young people living with HIV/AIDS to receive treatment, a young man responded that most of the people in his facility are aware of the areas that cater to those with HIV. People start remarking “that person is sick of HIV” when one approaches the ART clinic, so sometimes one misses appointments and instead goes when there are few people present.
Increased transactional sex among adolescent girls has the potential to wreak havoc on already deplorable sexual reproductive health indicators. Young girls have a greater need for contraception and are more likely to have unintended pregnancies, pregnancy complications, and unsafe abortions.
While more research is needed to better understand the causes and consequences of transactional sex, as well as the agency and vulnerability of those who engage in it, this survey suggests that transactional sex is on the horizon in the aftermath of COVID-19.
As a result, civil society organizations and the government must take into account the vulnerable populations’ increased economic and social vulnerabilities, while also recognizing the need for increased access to youth-friendly services as they expand opportunities for young women and girls, allowing them to make informed choices that best serve their overall physical, mental, and social health and aspirations.
Compiled by James Ocen.
- * Similar to the large part of the world, the arrival of Covid-19 in Uganda led to an increase in poverty, putting an already vulnerable population at risk. Some of these vulnerable girls turned to transactional sex to get essentials like sanitary towels and other fundamental needs.