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Health Watch | HIV Testing – Why We Should Emulate President Museveni – By Dr. Muniini K. Mulera

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Posted November 11, 2013 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Health ~ 13,481 views

     

HHIV

Dear Tingasiga –It was great to learn that President Museveni had had his blood drawn for HIV testing. To have done so was a responsible act for himself and for his wife. That alone would have been an important message to all citizens. To have done so publicly was an act of exemplary leadership. The President deserves credit and salutations for this timely reminder to Africans that we each have responsibility for our lives, to our partners, to our children and to society.

One of the most underappreciated aspects of HIV/Aids is that the advances that have been made in its medicinal and overall treatment have created a dangerous complacency, propelled by a false belief that the disease is now curable. It is not! This illusion has led many to regress to the same old habits of unprotected sex with people whose HIV/Aids status they do not know. The consequences to have been devastating.

Such complacency may be one of the causes of the extremely alarming results of the 2011 Uganda National HIV survey which showed that the prevalence of infection had risen in a 7-year period from 6.4 per cent to 7.3 per cent of people between 15 and 49 years of age. The figure for women was even higher at 8.3 per cent.

To put it in raw numbers, Uganda is currently recording 130,000 new cases annually, with 25,000 babies being born with it every year. These numbers are expected to increase over the next few years. Over 1.2 million Ugandans live with HIV/Aids, with fully half of them not on treatment.

A relatively new segment of the population that brings a special challenge is the generation of those born with HIV in the late 80s and 1990s. Now in their late teens to mid 20s, they are at an age when their sexual lives may pose a danger to themselves and to others. One cannot overstate the seriousness of the current epidemic of HIV/Aids. We should be more scared of the impact of HIV/Aids on our country than we are of gun-totting terrorists.

That is why all Ugandans of goodwill should salute the President and support his efforts in the renewed effort at surveillance and combating HIV/Aids. This is a winnable struggle if we, as citizens of Uganda, engage in a purposeful partnership with a view to fighting it on different fronts. The first partner is you and I, Tingasiga, as individuals taking responsibility for our own lives.

For the vast majority of us, HIV is a sexually transmitted organism. Therefore, step number one is a personal decision to abstain from sexual intercourse until entering marriage to only one partner whose HIV status you know. If you cannot wait till marriage, then you and your partner must be prepared to maintain a long-term monogamous relationship. Again you must know your partner’s HIV status. Personal responsibility includes measures such as male circumcision, recognizing that this has limited effectiveness.

Secondly, we need a partnership among the citizens. You are your brother’s keeper, so you owe him respectful advice and encouragement to overcome risky behaviours and to take an HIV test.An HIV test not only helps you protect your partner, it also enables you, if positive, to seek early and effective treatment. For example an HIV positive woman has the opportunity to seek guided contraception and thus avoid unwanted pregnancies. Should she choose to get pregnant, she must accesses antiretroviral medicines to treat her and protect her unborn baby.

Furthermore, citizens must censure adults who engage in reckless behaviours that put the lives of their your prey at risk. Sugar daddies thrive in an environment that either turns a blind eye or even glorifies their behaviour.

Third, a partnership between the various service providers should ensure evidence-based, consistent and integrated efforts to fight the disease.

Fourth is a partnership between Uganda’s opposition politicians and the rulers. This is one area where we face a common enemy that demands a united front. HIV is non-partisan. Its demise will be hastened by a non-partisan common voice. Government and opposition parliamentarians should work together to ensure adequate funding for global health care in the country.

Fifth, a partnership between all opinion leaders and the experts in HIV/Aids prevention and management is critical to ensure uniformity of message, informed by scientific knowledge, not superstition.

For example, the experts’ message about condom use frequently undermined by religious leaders teaching against condom use. Their false claim that condoms lead to promiscuity should be countered with the fact that condoms protect the promiscuous from sexually transmitted infections.

Sixth, partnership between the citizens and the State is necessary, with the former driving the agenda for universally accessible modern healthcare. The fight against HIV infection is a collective effort.

However, it all starts with individual responsibility for one’s life. For the sexually active, testing is not an option. It is a necessity. It is common sense.

Dr Mulera is a Daily Monitor columnist based in Canada. — muniinikmulera@aol.com


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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