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New Vision
'Concentrate on HIV prevention'
Anthony Bugembe
April 16, 2009
HIV and AIDS policy makers have been challenged to design more prevention programmes targeting girls.

"We must address the vulnerability of the girl child. The social environment makes it almost impossible for them to stay safe. This makes them 18 times more vulnerable to contracting the virus than their male counterparts," said Cathy Watson, the Straight Talk Foundation executive director.

Presenting the findings of the organisation's strategic plan mid-term review at the Uganda AIDS Commission headquaters on Tuesday, Watson said many girls were involved in early sex mainly through forced marriages.

"Girls are much more likely to be out of school and they are much more likely to be married by the age of 18 than boys and the way they get married is unsafe," Watson noted.

"In some communities, they are pushed into marriage even without getting to know their spouses better. In the process, they get infected."

Watson observed that 25% of the new HIV infections in Uganda were occurring in people aged under 25.

She expressed conceren that society was hesitant to talk to young people about marriage.

This, she said, was wrong, because young people get involved in risky relationships.

Rose Nalwadda, the Uganda AIDS Commission planning and monitoring director, said: "We are not doing enough to prevent new infections. That is why we need to adopt the Straight Talk model." Straight Talk is a behaviour change NGO founded in 1993, targeting adolescents.