IU Students Spent Month in Uganda Reporting on HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Editor’s note: Indiana University rising seniors Nick Trombola and Sophia Raymond, along with several other students from The Media School, participated in an internship program at the Daily Monitor, reporting on local health issues. This is part two of a two story series; read part one here.
BY SOPHIA RAYMOND
Africa is a great unknown to most Americans, often thought of in monolithic terms rather than in terms of the diverse cultures, languages, and ethnicities of individual African nations. Before visiting Uganda, a sub-Saharan East African country about the size of Oregon, I was guilty of thinking in a similar way.
Spending a month in Uganda reporting on the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a journalism student with Jim Kelly, an associate professor at The Media School at Indiana University, redefined Africa for me.
In Kampala, the country’s capital where I lived and worked for a month, every glimpse bursts with vivacity and color. Even more dazzling are the Ugandans themselves. This is where I met 20-year-old Jane Nannono. Jane provided surprising insight into the cross-generational relationships that Ugandans know all too well—what is called the “sugar daddy” culture.
Due to its taboo nature, this exchange of gifts for sex is rarely discussed, much less with a reporter. Therefore, I was shocked when Jane freely shared what it’s like to be married, with twins, to a man 40 years her senior.
While the relationship started on a transactional basis, it developed into something deeper. The reason I pursued the subject of cross-generational sex is because it’s a leading driver of HIV infections among young Ugandan women. Gender and power inequality in such relationships keep women from negotiating for safe sex. But Jane’s case was different. Not only are she and her husband HIV-negative, they also got tested together at her request at the clinic of her choice.
When she told me this, she flashed a humble smile. She was proud of her successful, loving marriage, and proud that she had defied the odds that such cross-generational relationships usually offer. The story I wrote about Jane was published in the Daily Monitor, the country’s largest privately owned newspaper, on June 30.
My view of Africa now defies common Western misperceptions. Contrary to popular belief, there is no storm cloud of primal danger lurking. Ugandans are kind, loving people, and the part of Africa I saw is peaceful, beautiful, and life-giving.
Sophia Raymond is a senior at IU studying journalism and public relations.