Uganda: We Can Win War On HIV/AIDS

Posted on August 1, 2012 by

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By Patrick Nakabale, July 31, 2012

The New Vision (Uganda’s leading website)

Opinion

Mr. Patrick Nakabale, MP

As I write this, the HIV/AIDS prevalence has alarmingly shot up from 6.4% a few years ago to 7.3% to-date. What this means is that more and more people, especially the youth, are getting infected everyday.

The case is more pronounced among married couples, since very few of the married couples would care to use protective measures like condoms.

The scourge is steadfastly rearing its ugly head because our generation has become resigned to the notion that “after all we shall all die”. This has created false courage that we can go on to engage in risky behaviour. If we happen to contract the virus, then go on to live for many years since we have the drugs that can manage the disease.

In the  90s we were afraid to touch a person with HIV/ AIDS for fear of contracting the virus. We shrieked at everything to do with HIV/ AIDS. We were sensitised later that HIV/ AIDS does not spread by simply touching an infected person.

We could not stand the sight of hollow eye sockets, brownish feathery hair, raised these days. (Today) Some people equate HIV/AIDS to any other condition like diabetes that you can manage to live with for many years.

We have been having conflicting messages on prevention and eradication of HIV/AIDS.

At the start, the central theme focused on abstinence and faithfulness as cornerstones for HIV prevention. I can say people at this time were afraid to contract the virus because the message had deeply sunk that this was a disease that had no cure. (As children we were exposed to all the signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS),  piercing ribs, slim body, wounds on scaly skin, scary red lips, perpetual diarrhoea, vomiting, etc. At the time the disease was more pronounced without any drugs or support system like today.

Any sensible person who cared to look at such patients would immediately give up the urge to have casual sex. People were more committed to their partners and young people abstained.

President Museveni, acknowledging the danger the country was faced with, embarked on a countrywide crusade in favour of abstinence and faithfulness. His message echoed the fact that his NRA/M had rid the country of dictators, so the biggest enemy at the time was HIV/AIDS. He rallied the country to declare an all-out-war against the deadly scourge, subsequently bringing it down from 35% to 5% by the early 2000s.

Given the alarming prevalence and incidence of HIV/AIDS in the recent times, we as a country that had become a success story, owing to our impressive war against the scourge, are steadily losing the battle to HIV/AIDS. The main problem has been a mismatch in communicating the prevention strategy.

The message has been adulterated by placing much emphasis on safer sex, due to the view that today’s generation is more addicted to sex than any other generation. We are telling youngsters to use condoms, other than assuring them of the grim realities in respect to HIV/AIDS. We are telling them that HIV/AIDS today is not a threat, or a death sentence as was the situation two decades ago. (Underlining added for emphasis by V&V.)

We are telling them that they could live longer with anti-retrovirals, thus break the fear over acquiring HIV. We need to give a second look to the prevention strategy. I will keep on telling my fellow youth that the only cure for HIV/AIDS is to avoid contracting it.

The writer is Youth MP Central region/ general secretary NRM Caucus

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