It is not common lately to hear our people speak casually of sexual escapades like there has never been a challenge of HIV and AIDS that nearly wiped out our society.
Such talk is a reflection of high rates of complacency and negligence in our society, which promotes this epidemic.
According to the HIV and AIDS Uganda country progress report 2013; the HIV epidemic in Uganda continues to be generalised and has not changed pattern in last three decades, pausing a big challenge to national efforts to defeat HIV over the years.
The UAC situation analysis of 2014 indicates that 570 Ugandan girls get infected with HIV every week! This probes a disturbing question of whether we are back to zero in our basic knowledge of HIV and the bitter fact that it still has no cure!
It seems that many of our people live on optimism that they will not contract HIV but do not care to detail other behaviour that predisposes them to catching the virus. That thinking is oblivious of the fact that AIDS is still killing over 71,000 Ugandans every day while over 1.7 million Ugandans are living with HIV and 380 get infected daily with the highest prevalence of 7.4% between the ages of 15-49 years (UNAIDS 2013).
Therefore, sitting back and choosing to live on hope is not going to change this trend but a rethinking of our behaviour will open a new chapter in our fight to end HIV.
So how about if we all wake up and make this our agenda; Taking a test to know one’s HIV status, sticking to one sexual partner faithfully, using condoms correctly and consistently and abstaining for those who are not of age or in genuine relationships.
This certainly is not so much to ask of anyone and we can do it. With these viable and proven practices, we will be saving our lives and avoiding the high cost of treating just one Ugandan on Anti-Retro Virals, the medicines that help fight the HIV virus. TASO spends about sh1,800,000 per person living with HIV under its care per year and yet these expensive medicines do not kill the virus. To save us, all these costs and many more challenges related to care for people living with HIV, let us stick to the basics and avoid catching HIV.
Let us cut the cost of getting an extra Ugandan newly infected with HIV into care, including Anti-Retro Viral treatment. The money saved can give people already infected with the Virus better care, manage treatment adherence and thereby contribute to the reduction of new HIV infections.
Give a person already living with HIV a chance to access the life time treatment since there is a chance for you not to catch the virus hence avoiding worries of continuity on this treatment amidst donor funding cuts. You never know, it may become competition to access treatment, yet without treatment there is certainly no life for anyone living with HIV, so why take the risk?
You want your loved ones, friend, relative or neighbour to be well and live to see their dreams come true?
Give them a chance by reminding them that HIV and AIDS is still with us and has no cure. Even if the drugs would be affordable, how sure are you there would never be stock-outs because of high demand for them?
That is why it is easier; if you do not have HIV, pledge to stay HIV free and if you have the HIV virus, guard your life jealously that you do not expose the virus to anyone else that would add a burden to the treatment circle. With that, all of us are able to have some hope without worry of HIV/AIDS.
I stick to TASO’s Vision of: ‘A world without HIV and AIDS’ I have started a personal journey to see this comes to pass, what about you?
The writer is an HIV/AIDS advocate