A national campaign urging people to "get off the sexual network" and discourage casual sex has got the whole of Uganda talking. There are an estimated 940,000 people living with HIV in Uganda, and a further 1.2 million children who have been orphaned by Aids according to the international Aids charity Avert. Women are particularly affected by the epidemic in Uganda, accounting for 59 per cent of those infected with HIV/AIDS in the country.
The country’s controversial ‘side dishes’ campaign is the second of a three phase nine-month-long "One Love" drive. Its TV and radio ads show a young child talking about his family's poverty brought about because his father died from after "eating a side dish" - a saying meaning having sex outside marriage. "The advert scares me to death. Whenever I watch it, I swear to myself not to have any side dish," said Vincent Kisakye. "It always gives me a lot to think about." "This particular part of the campaign has been very controversial, especially our use of children - people seem uncomfortable with that, but they need to face what they are doing to their children, to their families," said Daudi Ochieng, head of communications at Uganda Health Marketing Group which is running the campaign with the government.
The idea is to bring home the effects of infidelity, not just on health, but on the lives of the people they care for. Until now, previous Aids campaigns in Uganda haven’t reached out enough to Ugandans who are married or living together – the most likely group to get infected with HIV. "The aim of the campaign is to increase serial monogamy among married couples,” said Ochieng. "Abstinence and condoms don't have practical promise for couples," he told United Nations news service, IRIN.
A Facebook group run by the campaign has had an overwhelming response with more than 6,000 members tuning in during just three weeks. People used the space to talk about personal experience and offer solutions such as ‘how to respond when your partner does not want to use a condom." One Love messages have also been sent by text to mobile phone customers. And the campaign has worked, says the Uganda Health Marketing Group. Its research shows that awareness has grown from 10 per cent before the campaign to 53 per cent so far. "These campaigns are good because they give out information but the decision to change remains personal," said James Kigozi, communications officer for the Uganda Aids Commission.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children