27 May 2016

Uganda: Sexual Health Services Arrive On Three Wheels

In Uganda, tuk tuks are helping healthcare workers reach young people who are most vulnerable to HIV with sexual and reproductive health services.

Marie Stopes Uganda, through the Link Up project, is using the three-wheeled motorcycle taxis to reach informal settlements, which are difficult to access by other modes of transport due to poor infrastructure. Link Up aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights among young people most at risk from HIV.

High levels of stigma and discrimination in Uganda mean people most at risk from HIV infection are often afraid to go to health centres. The tuk tuks allow health workers to provide people with vital services within their own comfort zones.

How it works

One tuk tuk can accommodate four people; a trained service provider, a counsellor, a peer educator and a driver. The three wheeled motorcycles are ideal for carrying around the team at a low cost and enabling them to access remote places.

Shadia Nasansi Kaye, youth operations officer for Marie Stopes Uganda, notes an increase in the uptake of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services. There is also an increase in awareness among those who, in the past, feared discrimination and stigma especially when accessing services at health centres.

"People in Uganda, where the Link Up project is running, attribute sexual and reproductive health and HIV services to the tuk tuk," says Shadia. "They converge near the Marie Stopes and Link Up hired tuk tuk, waiting for these holistic services."

Peer educators make people in each area aware of the tuk tuk service before it carries out a visit. A person seeking any sexual health service can receive HIV testing, and counselling on any issue in a 'one stop shop'. Confidentiality is ensured as HIV testing is done inside the tuk tuk, with a trained healthcare provider. This successfully reaches people who do not have funds to travel to health facilities, which can be far away.

Quality time

The mobile service also enables health workers to spend time with their clients and listen to their concerns without rushing, in contrast to overstretched health centres.

"Some service providers in health centres are tasked with reaching a specific number of persons in a day in their programmes therefore cannot have quality time with one person in a bid to reach as many people as possible in a day," noted Mariam Nassaka, a Key Correspondent and an HIV activist in Uganda.

In a blog for Huffington Post Jill Sheffield, founder and president of Women Deliver, says: "Young people everywhere have the right to the knowledge, tools and services they need to make informed decisions about their bodies and live full, healthy and productive lives."

The tuk tuk service is helping to make these rights a reality for vulnerable young people in Uganda.

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