Arusha Times (Arusha)

2 June 2007

Tanzania: Umati Study Reveals Arumeru Girls Fear Pregnancy More Than HIV

Arusha — Young girls in Arumeru District, are reported to be taking a compound of Sodium Bicarbonate mixed with cold water, a home made 'drug' believed to be able to prevent pregnancy. The girls are convinced that taking a dose of 'Magadi' (as the chemical is known locally), in liquid form, immediately after sex, keeps them safe from 'unwanted babies.'

A recent research study report by the Family Planning Association of Tanzania (UMATI) reveals that, getting pregnant was the 'most scary,' thing as far as girls of Arumeru were concerned. On the other hand, both young men and women in the locality, were found to be experiencing sexual intercourse at very early ages.

According to the findings of the 'Baseline Survey' to establish the knowledge, attitudes and practice on Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV-Aids, young people in the district were found to be 'sexually active' at tender ages of 14 years and below (Accounting for 16 percent of the 383 youths who were interviewed there).

The survey findings were recently presented in Arusha by the research team leader, Felister Bwana, during the UMATI's 'Young Men as Equal Partners' (YMEP) district dissemination meeting. The study notes that the fear of pregnancy among the youth was higher than that of contacting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV-Aids.

It is still not clear where exactly could the formula for the home-made, 'oral contraceptive' have originated, or how effective it is in inhibiting normal fertility, but if the increasing number of juvenile pregnancies in the entire Arumeru precinct is anything to go by, then the local 'scientists' may need to review the recipe for their alkaline based, 'anti-pregnancy ' tonic.

About 46 percent of young women who were interviewed said they had a child/children and further examinations revealed that some girls delivered their 'first born ' while aged 16 years and below. The average age in which most young ladies were found to get 'babies' was 18. About 49 percent of young men admitted to have caused pregnancies.

According to the study, at least 38 percent of the subjects said they feared getting pregnant while an almost similar percentage (37) of boys, admitted to be terrified of the thought of 'making one pregnant!' To 'safeguard' themselves therefore, they ensured that the girls drank the saline mixture as 'oral contraceptive.'

The anti-pregnancy elixirs, if not effective in preventing babies, may just be effective in causing drastic health problems. Experts here warn of adverse reactions to administration of sodium bicarbonate. These include congestive heart failure.

The abrasive Sodium Bicarbonate may be relatively safe in normal anti-acid usage however consumption of large amounts are said to be lethal. Apparently, the girls in Arumeru reportedly gulp large amounts of the compound in order 'to be sure!'

The 'sexual relations ' are often promiscuous, the study indicates that 11 percent of girls and 14 percent boys, had more than three sex partners in the previous six months, while 10 percent of girls and about 12 percent of boys had three. At least, 21 percent of girls and 24 percent of the boys, who were interviewed, boasted two sex partners in that period.

The study also found out that use of condoms was low among young men, while risk perception of contacting HIV proved to be even lower. Sex among young men in most cases copulation occurs without them being prepared. Both young men and women were found to suffer from some form of sex related violence.

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