Wednesday March 26 2014

Behavioural change key in HIV fight

By Isaac Luganda

There are changes that occur in young people that determine and affect their behavioural patterns as they grow up. These changes - physical, psychological and biological - are usually characterised by a range of abnormal behaviours.

These behavioural patterns have put many young people at risk of acquiring HIV/Aids, unwanted pregnancies and other sexually transmitted diseases largely as a result of ignorance.

Research suggests a variety of health promotion techniques to fight the spread of HIV; however, no single technique has been found to be superior to behavioural change. However, the challenge lies in telling people to change their lifelong habits.

As far as behaviour change is concerned, it has been proved that what people do is as a result of what they believe in or value. The more value attached to the behaviour, the more difficult it is to change it.
Therefore, changing attitudes and customary behaviours requires knowledge, motivation, resources and skills.
It is crucial for the youth to identify their strengths and weaknesses and come up with strategies that can be used to help young people in communities.

As an advocate of behavioural change among youth in Abstinence Hope International Uganda, I believe a person’s character and lifestyle is directly linked to behaviour change.

The World Health Organisation defines a youth as a person aged 15 – 24, and as per Uganda’s youth statute, youth are regarded as those between 18 – 30 years, while young people comprise those aged 10 –24.
Uganda’s current demographic statistics on adolescent health indicate that 33 per cent of Uganda’s population is aged between 10 and 24. A combined effort to accelerate focus on young people’s behaviour is, therefore, paramount.

Most of the youth, however, remain vulnerable to HIV/Aids due to various factors such as poverty, early marriage and ignorance/limited access to sexual reproductive health services, break down of cultural structures, mass media and domestic violence.

The government and the other stakeholders should support youth initiatives aimed at behavioural change.
We also need to invest in the unmet demand for youth friendly Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health services if we are to reduce the spread of HIV/Aids among young people.