A consortium of health-promoting organisations under Voices For Health on Saturday launched the 'Silence Is Deadly' campaign in Mbarara and Busia, two months after it was officially rolled out at the Serena Hotel in Kampala.
Like its tagline, 'Speak Out', the advocacy campaign urges young people not to suffer in silence but speak out on sexual and reprodcutive health issues affecting them and where need arises, seek health products and information to guide them make informed choices. The campaign also targets the general public urging them to create an enabling environment that does not judge nor stigmatize young people seeking services at health facilities, rather encourage them to take control of their lives by adopting positive healthy behavior.
According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2016 report, 25 percent of adolescents aged 15-19 in Uganda have begun childbearing, while about 570 Ugandan girls and young women aged 15 to 24 get infected with HIV every week. Teenage pregnancies in Uganda account for over 20% of maternal deaths in the country. Information gaps has been named as one of the reasons why young people are making decisions that lead them into trouble.
The events in Mbarara at Kijjungu Market Area were also graced by the area Woman MP, Hon. Rosette Kajungu Mutambi who urged young people to keep in school and avoid risky behavior that exposes their lives to dangers of pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse among others. "Keeping in school and acquiring knowlegde will help you overcome the troubles of this world," she said. "Everything that is exciting you now should be put on halt until you finish school; you will have time for it all when you complete your education.
Hon. Mutambi also asked young people to seek knowledge and guidance as regards their health from health facilities without fear, urging health workers to treat issues of youths seriously and not stigmatize them for reaching out for help.
Activities at the launch included free HIV testing, cervical cancer screening, malaria testing and treatment, sexual and reproductive health information, issuing of free male and female condoms that offer dual protection against STIs and unintended pregnancies among other activities.
The Silence Is Deadly Campaign is being implemented by a consortium of organisations that include Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG), Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU), Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS) Uganda, Centre for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) and Partners in Community Transformation (PICOT); together with Ministry of Health - these under an umbrella body, Voices For Health.