The Directorate for HIV and AIDS under the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) alongside the Program for Accessible health, Communication and Education (PACE) officially launched the Ulinzi condom this month.
Ulinzi, which means “protection”, is a condom branded specifically for the soldiers in order to scale up HIV prevention amongst the military. The idea, conceived in 2013, was to get a condom with which the military related and therefore was more likely to use consistently. PACE, a health organisation that uses social marketing approaches to measurably improve the health of Ugandans, undertook pre-testing activities that included key informant interviews and focus group discussions before deciding on Ulinzi.
Condoms remain a key intervention in the prevention of HIV, but condom use across the continent has continually gone down.
Following the Presidential Fast-track Initiative on Ending HIV&AIDS in Uganda by 2030, the UPDF has taken additional measures to make sure there are no new infections.
“One of the challenges of the UPDF when it took power in 1986 was HIV. The NRA (as it was known then) were heroes, and money did not matter. There was a lot of excitement and constant celebration but no structured interventions to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Brig. Leo Kyanda, the Chief of Staff for the UPDF Land Forces said at the double launch of the condom and the UPDF HIV Prevention Strategy in Bombo Military Barracks on October 2nd, 2018.
Brig Kyanda speaking at the launch
The PEPFAR-funded project has worked with other partners to enhance the already existing efforts in the army to increase prevention behaviour for soldiers and the military communities. Often, these communities are affected by the mobility of the work, separation from family and the sometimes remoteness of their assigned posts. Constant interface with life-and-death situations may also affect health behaviour.
“We don’t hide,” Brig Kyanda said, complimenting the openness with which the soldiers have dealt with the virus and how it has ensured the ART adherence within the force.
“PACE has joined hands with UPDF to amplify and complement already existing efforts. (…) The Ulinzi condom is not going to be a magic bullet for HIV prevention, of course and should be used alongside other proven strategies,” Phyellister Nakamya, the Executive Director for PACE said.
The condom will be distributed, for free, amongst the military populations and communities around military bases across the country.
As with the rest of the Ugandan population, the force is increasingly young and innovation must be at the center of health solutions to ensure that the country registers no new infections.