- A new report has found that AIDS rates in Uganda's war-ravaged northern region are skyrocketing as a result of the 18-year civil war. The prevalence of the deadly virus in the war zone is found to be nearly double the rest of the country.
While Uganda has been cited as an AIDS "success story," its protracted civil war threatens to unravel the country's dramatic improvements as AIDS rates skyrocket in the country's northern region, according to a recent report from Christian relief organisation World Vision.
Since 1991, Uganda has seen HIV infection rates decline from 21.2 percent of the adult population to a current 6.2 percent. However, the 18-year war between the Ugandan government and the brutal rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), concentrated in northern Uganda, has increased the HIV rates in parts of the north to 11.9 percent - nearly double the rest of the country.
- There's no place to hide from AIDS, says Rory Anderson of World Vision, who is a co-author of the report. "Four out of five people in the north have lost their homes. Many women, especially those in the displacement camps find that they can only get food, soap or money in exchange for sex," he adds.
Further, the brutal practices of the LRA rebels directly promote the spread of HIV and AIDS. "Girls who are abducted by the LRA are often given to commanders as 'wives' and sex slaves. Those who 'night commute' and sleep in the cities to avoid abduction are often raped there," Mr Anderson says.
The LRA claims to seek the overthrow of the current Ugandan government and is characterised by attacks on civilians, looting, rape, and the abduction and forced conscription of children into its militias.
The international community lately has expressed a stronger support to the government of President Yoweri Museveni and his efforts to end the war in northern Uganda. The US government even has termed the LRA a terrorist movement, given its systematic terrorising of the civilian population.
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