Today – the day before Valentine’s Day – advocates around the world celebrate the International Condom Day. There are many reasons why this day should also be commemorated in Uganda.
Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world with 70 per cent aged below 25 years.
This young population presents a high dependency ratio, potentially undermining social transformation and sustainable development.
The youth bulge can, however, be turned into an opportunity but only if the necessary investments are made in young people’s sexual and reproductive health.
In an effort to increase young people’s access to information about safe sex and the benefits of condom use, Reach a Hand Uganda is partnering with UNFPA on the national media campaign dubbed ‘If it is not on, it is not safe’ to promote male and female condom use for dual protection.
Currently, the median age of sexual debut in Uganda is 16.7 years and the teenage pregnancy rate stands at 24 per cent. Although knowledge about modern contraception among adolescents aged 15-19 is high (92 per cent and 96 per cent for girls and boys respectively), access remains a challenge.
Early child bearing put girls at risk – maternal death among women aged 15-24 contributes to 44 per cent of Uganda’s overall maternal mortality. In addition, lack of knowledge about sexual and reproductive health and poor skills to negotiate safe sex, put young people at risk of HIV.
That is why Reach a Hand Uganda and UNFPA have explored new ways of spreading the campaign’s important messages on condom use. By using popular Ugandan pop artistes, Reach a Hand Uganda is using music to engage young people in a dialogue about safe sex.
Social media is also being used proactively in the campaign to engage young people in a conversation about their sexual and reproductive health needs and challenges.
Tomorrow, Reach a Hand marks Valentine’s Day on social media under the hashtag #LoveDontHurt. The day will be used to increase condom awareness among young people as youth ambassadors and peer educators engage in discussion around ‘something for something love’ and cross generational sex – some of the main drivers behind both unplanned pregnancies and new HIV infections among young people.