Uganda has long been considered an AIDS success story, although in recent years declines in prevalence and incidence appear to have stalled or even reversed. During the early stages of Uganda’s AIDS prevention program, health messages emphasized behavior change, especially fidelity.
Ugandans were made to fear AIDS and feel personally at risk of dying from a new, poorly understood disease. In this research, six focus group discussions with 64 participants in peri-urban and rural areas outside Kampala suggest that HIV prevention messages have shifted in the direction of risk reduction: condoms, testing, and drugs.
Ugandans now seem less afraid of becoming infected with HIV, at least in part because antiretroviral therapy is available, and this diminished fear may be having a disinhibiting effect on sexual behavior. Participants believe that HIV rates are on the rise, that more individuals are engaged in multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, and that sexual behavior is less restrained than a generation ago.
These findings suggest that AIDS-prevention programs in Uganda would benefit from refocusing on the content that yielded success previously—sexual behavior change strategies. (Studies in Family Planning 2013; 44: 25–43)