29 November 2012

Uganda: Beware, Aids Still Kills!


Tomorrow is World Aids Day and in Uganda official ceremonies to commemorate the event will take place at Kasensero landing site in Kakuuto county, Rakai district. Perhaps it is just as well that this event goes to the place where, in 1982, the first HIV/Aids cases in Uganda were identified.

The choice of venue should help remind us that Aids still exists and still kills, a fact that appears lost on many Ugandans. This year's theme is: "Re-engaging leadership for effective HIV prevention."

The theme was obviously tailored to take note of the frustrating fact that HIV, which Uganda almost dealt a deadly blow in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is showing signs of rebounding.

The Uganda Aids Commission Director, Dr David Kihumuro Apuuli, was recently quoted as lamenting that the scourge is still growing. We must not lose the fight. Many reasons have been advanced for the reversal of earlier gains, including the introduction of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), which has reduced the fear factor about HIV/Aids.

However, ARVs are not a cure. They are very expensive. They are not a sustainable solution. Besides, they have side effects that can make life quite uncomfortable and are meant to be treatment for life.

The only viable and sustainable solution lies in zero infections or prevention. The means might vary but the end is the same. Whether it is through Abstinence, Being faithful or using Condoms, what is most important is that we stop the spread of HIV.

Thus in keeping with this year's theme, it is imperative that the government, NGOs, religious and cultural leaders, as well as individuals, rededicate themselves to the fight against this killer disease.

For those already infected, we urge the government and donors to make ARVs readily available and accessible. At the moment, only a fraction of those who need them actually access them.

Yet it has been shown that when people start on ARVs early enough and stick to them, they have little chance of transmitting the virus to others. But then we must know our status first. Let's begin by testing, for experience has shown that a stitch in time saves nine.

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