By Caroline Kainomugisha
As I attend a monitoring and evaluation community interface meeting on government service delivery in Namasale sub-county Amolatar district, sitting under a tree shade just across, stands the Health Centre III, a facility dedicated to People Living With HIV/AIDs (PLHIV).
With this, I am reminded that, the candlelight day Memorial event for 2021 is scheduled for 27th May 2021.
The candlelight day memorial is one for grass-root mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the World.
The theme for this year’s memorial will be “HIV stigma-free workplaces in Uganda: Journey towards ending AIDS by 2030.”
The event will be celebrated with three objectives, one of which “to equip communities with messages for an intensified fight against HIV and AIDS amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Equipping communities with messages in this fight against HIV/AIDS can be done by; creating awareness of HIV/AIDs in terms of prevention, preaching against stigma, sensitizing people to know their HIV status, and encouraging AIDS patients to take their medicine as prescribed.
A few months ago, a work colleague (Mr. Max) and his female acquaintance (Ms. Maxine), in the hit of the moment engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse and later realized there was a need for them to get tested to know their HIV status.
Sadly, this is the practice of 90% of men and women today, particularly my fellow youth in Uganda.
The time has come for us to come out of hiding and verbally condemn this dangerous habit, if we are to fast track ending the spread of AIDS by 2030.
Upon getting to a clinical laboratory, let’s call the two Max and Maxine.
The HIV test turned out positive for one and negative for the other. As a reader, you can only imagine the shock and dismay Max and Maxine were going through.
Firstly, the results were questionable, why was one negative and the other positive. Both parties feared for their future fate and decided to seek a second opinion.
The results from the second opinion turned out negative for both parties. Max was finally at peace. However, Maxine could not find peace so she decided to seek for a third, fourth and even fifth opinion.
All turn out negative but the mental and emotional impact of having received a positive HIV test, was gruesome and lasting for Maxine to say the least.
With such an ordeal, you will agree with me that, it is paramount to advocate for frequent and regular testing for one’s HIV status.
Many of us are fully aware that HIV/AIDS can be spread by having unprotected sex with PLHIV but for purposes of awareness, we can recap on how else HIV/AIDS is spread.
HIV/AIDS can also be spread by getting cut by a sharp object that contains blood with the virus, kissing a person living with HIV/AIDS while both parties have wounds in the mouth can also facilitate spreading the disease, or contracting HIV at birth due to poor handling at hospitals.
Majority of us today are living in a world of either innocent ignorance or self-imposed ignorance i.e. completely unaware of how HIV/AIDS spreads or being aware of how HIV/AIDS spreads and but choosing to take the risks either way respectively.
Annually, over 28,000 people die of HIV and 52,000 new infections are recorded among the youth in Uganda according to (UNAIDS 2019).
My fellow youth, let us all stop acting on the whims of our reproductive systems’ desires and exercise self-control to protect both you and your partner from HIV/AIDS.
Come 2030, a youth aged 20 years today will be 31 years.
So, this is for senior six vacists, university going students “campusers”, employed and self-employed youth who comprise 70% of Uganda’s population and therefore stand for almost 50% of tomorrow’s leaders, parents and elders of the society.
We are the defining age population of Uganda’s future, therefore it is dependent on us to make sure that the spread of new HIV infections by 2030 comes down to zero percent from six percent today.
This can only be achieved through abstinence from sex, testing to know one’s HIV/AIDS status and having protected sex.
The Writer is a Communications Assistant at Digital Media Unit in the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance.