Health Literacy, HIV/AIDS, and Gender: a Ugandan Youth Lens
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Youth, the World Bank argues, need to become a constituency for reform indeveloping countries. This case study responds to this challenge by investigatingadolescent students' understanding of the relationship between health literacy, HIV/AIDS,and gender in the context of Uganda. The four questions investigated are: (i) What kind ofhealth literacy, HIV/AIDS, and gender-related information is accessible to Ugandanadolescent secondary school students? (ii) In the students' view, what are the factorscontributing to health and HIV/AIDS related challenges faced by young people in Ugandatoday? (iii) According to these students, what is the impact of the debate on gender equalityin the fight against health epidemics including HIV/AIDS? and (iv) What do these studentsconsider to be the way forward for Uganda to achieve better health and improve lifechances for all? The theoretical framework includes critical pedagogy and indigenousknowledge systems, as well as integrative gender frameworks. Each contributes a differentbut complementary understanding of adolescent students' perspectives on the issues underinvestigation. Data were collected in a qualitative study from January 2005 — May, 2007. The datacorpus includes: student journals, reflective reports, artifacts/documents, life historyinterviews, questionnaires, informal ethnographic conversations, focus group discussionsand critical inquiry discussions. In response to each of the research questions, the majorfindings were as follows: i) The students' understanding of the relationship between healthliteracy, HIV/AIDS, and gender were in part influenced by the media, and in part their ownexperiences. ii) Poverty and peer pressure impact young people's health practices. iii)Young people want gender equality debates to have a focus on marginalized males as well as females. iv) Youth suggest that education, fair trade, and better healthcare services areimportant in the attainment of the "better health for all" goal in Uganda. The study concludes that marginalized groups, especially youth, need opportunitiesto develop a united voice and be active participants in reform processes. Further, newanalysis frameworks are needed to understand the gender/power relations in Uganda.