Washington Post Examines Ugandan Attitudes on Virginity in Fight Against HIV/AIDS
The Washington Post on Friday examined attitudes in Uganda on girls' virginity and sexual behavior in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In many parts of Africa, including Uganda, "sex has long been a way out of grinding poverty, overcrowded homes and an uncertain future" with many young girls accepting offers of sex from older men in exchange for financial support. Now, however, "the sexual behavior of African girls has become a new focus in the war on AIDS," the Post reports. In Uganda, as well as in other African countries, governments are promoting female sexual abstinence as a primary way to fight the epidemic (Wax, Washington Post, 10/7). For example, Sulaiman Madada, a member of the Ugandan parliament from the country's Kayunga District, in July said he will give university scholarships to district virgin girls when they graduate from high school as a way to fight the spread of HIV. Madada said he is aiming to promote morality and will require eligible girls to undergo a gynecological exam to prove their virginity before he will pay their school fees. More than 80% of families in the Kayunga District report having had at least one family member die of AIDS-related causes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/22). The scholarship program has sparked controversy. Critics say the gynecological exams may be inaccurate, causing girls who fail the test to be ostracized. They also say the exams could traumatize girls and stigmatize those who have been raped. Others, including the group Human Rights Watch, say this "push for abstinence" is motivated "by politics, not purity," the Post reports (Washington Post, 10/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.