We have officially hit the home stretch of our stay in Uganda. On
Saturday, I sadly moved out of my wonderful home stay and our project
came to a close with our end-of-program tournament. Despite the
heaviest rain that I’ve witnessed all summer forcing us to cancel the
second half of tournament games, the kids had fun, and it was a good
way to wrap up and celebrate the accomplishments of the summer.
In our last full week in Uganda, two of our professors from
Northwestern made the trip out here to give us a little formal
education, and make us work for the credits we’re receiving. I spent
Sunday, my first legitimately free day in two months, writing a paper
assigned for one of the classes. However depressing it is to return to
the academic world of critical reading and writing, the paper was to
be a reflection of one of the assigned readings in junction with how
it applied to our work in the field.
The article I wrote about was on HIV/AIDS. It hypothesized reasons
why Africa is plagued by the disease so much more than the rest of the
world. Briefly mentioned was the difference in relationships between
Africans and Westerners, let’s say, Americans. While on average
Americans have sex with more people in their lives than Africans do,
they are for the most part, serially monogamous, thus the rate of
transmission is lower. Africans, especially African men, the article
said, tend to be more likely to have sex with multiple people at once,
thus transmit the disease to unknowing partners.
One reason the article gave for this infidelity was women in
"transactional relationships." Because African women often have little
power in relationships, and are dependent on their boyfriends or
husbands for money or support, they have no power to keep their
partners faithful. Without men, these women are ostracized.
Furthermore, these disempowered women probably don’t feel able to
demand the use of condoms or other contraception.
So…my genius solution to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, which surely
has been proposed by many before me, is to launch a massive women’s
rights campaign. The results of a women’s empowerment movement could
be immense; if the power balance between men and women in
relationships was leveled, men would be more faithful, and women
could demand HIV testing and the use of contraception.
Of course, this is highly idealistic and much, much easier said than
done, but it’s an idea that I got excited about. I think it is time
that we start looking for new solutions to the problem of HIV
transmission, as abstinence and other campaigns have failed to
eradicate the problem in the past twenty years.