Three mentally disabled Women test HIV positive daily in Gulu

Minister Nakiwala (left) inspecting SOS Children`s home in Gulu City. Photo by Emmy Daniel Ojara
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Atleast 3 women with mental disabilities are reportedly infected in Gulu District daily with HIV.

The prevalence of the HIV in the District is at 14 percent, with 27,000 tested persons living with the infections, according to the report by the Gulu District Health Department. 

Irene Laker, a board member of Gulu Union for Persons with Disabilities revealed in an interview that the office receives at least 3 cases of the women testing positive with the infection on a daily basis.

Laker explained that most of the women with disabilities in the District are facing the challenges of sexual harassment.   

She further revealed that the office registered 30 cases of sexual harassment against the women and girls with mental disabilities during the period of lockdown.  

Mirriam Apiyo, a survivor of the mental health condition observed that the social exclusion against the persons with disabilities exposed them to more risks from the community.    

“I have faced stigma from my own parents and that is the challenge that many of us go through” Apiyo recounts.

Derrick Kizza, the Executive Director Mental Health Uganda however noted that there is a need for the Country to invest in the community mental health services for interventions.   

Kizza says that most of the women prone to sexually transmitted diseases are those presenting with bipolar, one of the mental health conditions. 

He explained that the condition causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows, affecting behavior, judgment, energy and sleep among others.

Kizza revealed that 8 women with mental disabilities who were sexually harassed in Lira District during the period of the lockdown are yet struggling to find justice amidst the slow pace of the investigations.

He notes that the lockdown has exposed the country to high risk of mental health challenges, adding1,680 of new mental illnesses that were reported at Butabika Hospital during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, 8,882 patients with mental illnesses sought treatment in the hospital from 2019 to 2020.

At least 478 of the patients were admitted at the Psychiatric Ward while the hospital is currently registering 60 new cases on a monthly basis.

Dr. Alfred Lulua Droti, the Acting Officer-in-Charge of Mental Health Unit at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital blamed the situation on alcoholism and drug abuse driving at least 50 men to mental health conditions.

John Paul Nyeko, an activist for persons with mental health conditions in Gulu says that despite the rising cases of mental illnesses in the North, access to care and treatment has  emained low.  

He urges the government to empower the communities to report cases of human rights violations being meted onto the persons with mental disabilities. 

Uganda has ratified the United Nations Convention on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities which requires the state parties to respect mental health conditions on an equal basis with others. 

Article 19 of the Convention calls for inclusion in the community on an equal basis, with support and services which many of the patients with the conditions still hardly find. 

Much of Northern Uganda, which suffered the brunt of the insurgency by Lords’ Resistance Army, is manifesting the rising cases of the mental illnesses.    

A similar study by Transcultural Psychosocial Organization  -TPO Uganda, a mental health organization in the North, identified Omoro and Gulu as the Districts as mostly affected with mental health challenges.    The most affected Sub Counties are Odek in Omoro with 17 percent while Patiko in Gulu District has 10 percent of the mental health conditions in the region.  


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