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New Vision
Uganda: No New HIV Infections By 2062

<p>Dr. C.N. Lwanga</p>

October 25, 2012

IMAGINE a Uganda without new HIV infections in 2062; is this possible?

Recently as TASO was marking Silver Jubilee, a young friend of mine, Ronny, who had seen me on TV, asked me to comment on what I had said that TASO together with others will be aiming at no new HIV infections.

He was skeptical though careful to be polite.

As we ponder Ronny's question, another question comes to mind. If we are indeed to achieve no new HIV infections, what will it take?

I am convinced it is possible and within our reach to stop new HIV infections.

The statistics show that we are near universal coverage as regards to knowledge about HIV/AIDS and as a country; we have in recent past been the model in bringing HIV prevalence down.

However, rested like retired generals and let down our guard and now the statistics show the enemy has regrouped and if we do not take action, threatens to overpower us.

The complacency of success must be fought starting at individual level. In Uganda we are plagued with a deadly mind disease called "excucisitis".

There is always a very good reason why many a Ugandan cannot achieve their planned goals. In the case of HIV, of course the excuses are innumerable.

"It is the Ministry of Health letting us down. Others insist it is the Uganda AIDS Commission that has failed us while some are emphatic it is the Government -and someone asked "Who is the Government".

Haa, it is our leaders, they are in sweet slumber in Parliament instead of mobilising us about HIV.

Other credible excuses include poverty. Of course, who doesn't know it, women are poor. Men are tempted by these poor women, and cannot control themselves.

The youth are vulnerable and can't help it!"

There is a pathetic reluctance to take responsibility. Meanwhile, babies get born with HIV in an era where there is all the provisions for this not to happen and the virus keeps being spread to other nonsuspecting Ugandans.

The complacency and "excucisitis" have been effectively passed on to the youth, who form 55% of the population.

Therefore, the youth see no reason to take responsibility, either. These negative paradigms are further perpetuated by some of the well-meaning organisations that engage with the people to help create change.

Their emphasis is on people's helplessness and vulnerability and not people's ability to fight, and make a difference, "Positive Living" All is not lost however.

With just a few individuals committing to make a difference, the massive task of ensuring no new HIV infections can be galvanized into action.

The Government, religious and cultural leaders and their machinery too can make a decision to prioritise the drive for an HIV free Uganda.

As individuals, we can reach down into ourselves for intrinsic motivation, and find that the indomitable spirit that lived in our ancestors is alive and well!

I am reminded of the words of a valiant Acholi elder, last year as I participated in the evaluation of an HIV programme in Agago district.

"We Acholi have always been proud people. We never begged for handouts. Let us go back to being like our fore fathers. Let us work and not beg for handouts. We have hands and brains, we can feed our children. Those who come to help us should find us working hard." I was greatly inspired.

"Yes we can- is my response to Ronny. At 70 years, he can plan to write his article for New Vision of 2062...that my auntie Christine believed it, did what she could and together with other Ugandans, they made it happen and it came to pass-even before 2062! The headlines will then read- "2062- Uganda free of new HIV infections".

To have a Uganda without new HIV infections starts in our minds. There are mountains to climb as we do so, of course and I acknowledge the challenges but I will not wait and be told about the excuses.

I refuse to sit back in complacency and paralysis by analysis. I will do what I can and make my contribution.

I have learnt over my 47 years, true to my late father's counsel, that as long as one believes in themselves, and determines to achieve their goal, with God's help, they are unstoppable.

A Uganda free of new HIV infections in 2062 starts with me. Commit with me to make it a reality in the next 50 years, starting with yourself. Do your part.

To my young friend Ronny, please believe it and act on all the information you have on how to protect yourself and your loved ones, even if, it is only for your Auntie Christine's sake. While at it, rally other youth to join the HIV free generation of the Pearl of Africa over the next 50 years.

"Zero new infections, zero AIDS deaths and zero stigma and discrimination".

The writer is the new executive director, TASO