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“I want to spearhead the fight against HIV in Karamoja,” said Lopeyok Raphael Kakamongole, aged 25. Lopeyok is one of the youth champions who benefited from the The Karamoja United Nations HIV Prevention Programme (KARUNA), an initiative that mobilises young people to help tackle HIV/AIDS in their local communities. The programme was implemented in seven districts, including Kotido, Abim, Napak, Kaboong, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Amudat.

A huge part of the foundation for KARUNA’s activities were the Leadership Forums which were held from 30th June to 9th July 2020. The forums brought together young people and local leaders to dialogue and generate solutions for improving sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in their districts. 

The local leaders and young people engaged in discussions on cultural practices such as child marriage, courtship rape, bride price and widow inheritance, which have promoted unhealthy sexual practices.  Among the participants were youth champions who were selected, trained, and actively involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, becoming role models by living healthy lifestyles.

The forums also acted as platforms through which the youth champions were commended for the positive impact they have made on their communities. The youth champions were also able to showcase their findings from the focus group discussions and debates.  The winning debate teams were rewarded with trophies for their successes thus boosting their confidence and strengthening their leadership skills.

Through the programme, young people and local leaders are being linked to have sustainable conversations on HIV prevention and are also recognized for their efforts.
PHOTO: Reach a Hand Uganda.

“Positive progress in these communities is evident as many young people now freely approach the youth champions for advice. Today, these young people are proactively taking charge of their sexual health,” said a local leader.

In addition to community events, over 21,000 people were engaged through radio talk-shows where district officials and youth champions discussed the current HIV/AIDS situation and prevention strategies. During the talk shows, cultural practices that hinder positive SRHR behaviour and information were discussed, emphasizing HIV prevention.

*Story by By Erin Parkington Tee. Erin was a summer intern at Reach A Hand Uganda from University of East Anglia. She interned in the Communications and Advocacy department from June-August 2019.