Vulnerability to high risk sexual behaviour (HRSB) following exposure to war trauma as seen in post-conflict communities in eastern uganda: a qualitative study
Muhwezi, Wilson Winstons
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Background: Much of the literature on the relationship between conflict-related trauma and high risk sexual behaviour (HRSB) often focuses on refugees and not mass in-country displaced people due to armed conflicts. There is paucity of research about contexts underlying HRSB and HIV/AIDS in conflict and post-conflict communities in Uganda. Understanding factors that underpin vulnerability to HRSB in post-conflict communities is vital in designing HIV/AIDS prevention interventions. We explored the socio-cultural factors, social interactions, socio-cultural practices, social norms and social network structures that underlie war trauma and vulnerability to HRSB in a post-conflict population. Methods: We did a cross-sectional qualitative study of 3 sub-counties in Katakwi district and 1 in Amuria in Uganda between March and May 2009. We collected data using 8 FGDs, 32 key informant interviews and 16 indepth interviews. We tape-recorded and transcribed the data. We followed thematic analysis principles to manage, analyse and interpret the data. We constantly identified and compared themes and sub-themes in the dataset as we read the transcripts. We used illuminating verbatim quotations to illustrate major findings. Results: The commonly identified HRSB behaviours include; transactional sex, sexual predation, multiple partners, early marriages and forced marriages. Breakdown of the social structure due to conflict had resulted in economic destruction and a perceived soaring of vulnerable people whose propensity to HRSB is high. Dishonour of sexual sanctity through transactional sex and practices like incest mirrored the consequence of exposure to conflict. HRSB was associated with concentration of people in camps where idleness and unemployment were the norm. Reports of girls and women who had been victims of rape and defilement by men with guns were common. Many people were known to have started to display persistent worries, hopelessness, and suicidal ideas and to abuse alcohol. Conclusions: The study demonstrated that conflicts disrupt the socio-cultural set up of communities and destroy sources of people’s livelihood. Post-conflict socio-economic reconstruction needs to encompass programmes that restructure people’s morals and values through counselling. HIV/AIDS prevention programming in post-conflict communities should deal with socio-cultural disruptions that emerged during conflicts. Some of the disruptions if not dealt with, could become normalized yet they are predisposing factors to HRSB. Socio-economic vulnerability as a consequence of conflict seemed to be associated with HRSB through alterations in sexual morality. To pursue safer sexual health choices, people in post-conflict communities need life skills.