For a local policeman in Uganda, partnering with the Northern Uganda Malaria, AIDS and Tuberculosis program (NUMAT) − a program supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) − to address sexual and gender-based violence in his community is a welcome challenge.
Following a community discussion, Paul Okot, the sub-county police post in-charge, reflected, “I have daughters myself and am concerned about this issue. I had heard about sexual and gender-based violence before, but honestly…much of the information was new – particularly the connection between sexual and gender-based violence with HIV transmission,” said Paul.
The stress induced by years of war and violence, tight living quarters, constant threats to safety, and limited access to safe drinking water, food and shelter has resulted in psychological trauma and a high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse. Combined, these factors have deeply fractured normal human relationships and normalized violence in Northern Uganda, especially sexual and gender-based violence.
This type of violence is contributing to the rise of HIV transmission rates in Uganda, with the majority of victims being women, young girls and children. And with a population of 940,000 living with HIV/AIDS, this problem must be addressed.
“It’s like a circle that we are trying to stop,” says Paul.
With PEPFAR support, NUMAT brings police, community leaders, women and young people together to raise awareness and strengthen reporting, treatment services and systems that address sexual and gender-based violence. The program works with communities to show members the connection between HIV transmission and sexual and gender-based violence and provides solutions to reduce, and eventually eliminate, this problem.
One way in which NUMAT does this is by nominating “animators,” individuals NUMAT trains to identify sexual and gender-based violence, report incidences, and refer victims for medical and psychosocial treatment. Animators also provide mediation services, offer consultation and advice, and escort victims to the police or health clinics for treatment.
“Already, I have seen 40 cases at my office. I want to see a community free of violence,” says Paul. “That’s what we are working towards.”
NUMAT is a five-year, $30 million program that was designed in consultation with the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Uganda AIDS Commission, international agencies, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, and networks of people living with HIV/AIDS.
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