Scott DeLisi, the US Ambassador to Uganda has rallied Ugandan youths to come forward and be leaders in transforming Uganda and in changing the current face of HIV/AIDS.
DeLisi was in the company of Ugandan youths and the US Peace Corps volunteers who converged at Kisubi Seminary along Kampala-Entebbe Road to mark World AIDS Day, Dec. 5.
Around the world, the day is celebrated on Dec.1 and this year's national celebrations were held at Kasensero fishing village in the southern district of Rakai.
"The sad truth is that in Uganda the number of people getting infected annually is on the rise. Even more disturbing is the fact that more than half of those infected in Uganda have been infected in just the past five years," DeLisi said.
He added that the number of new infections includes many young Ugandans.
The most recent Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey report released in the middle of this year reported that there is an upsurge in HIV prevalence among Ugandan youths aged 15-19. In comparison to the last Uganda HIV/AIDS Sero-Behavioral Survey carried out seven years ago, the rise in HIV prevalence within this particular group is 60%.
DeLisi reminded the youths that they are the leaders of tomorrow and that they are Uganda's future doctors and nurses, teachers, lawyers and judges, members of parliament and parents.
He continued: "To be the great leaders of tomorrow, however, you need to be healthy, and here in Uganda, that means knowing the facts about HIV prevention. You each must take personal responsibility for your own health by making smart choices."
DeLisi took the youths through the ABC HIV/AIDS prevention model which proved so successful in the 1990's, reminding them about what each letter stands for although he spent a little more time explaining what else the 'C' should stand for.
"C stands for Condoms. And you have been told today about condoms and the role they can play in protecting your health. But C also stands for other things," he said.
"It stands for change-- the changes you are making in your lives. It stands for control. The control you will exert over your future. It stands for challenges--the challenges you will face in relationships."
DeLisi added that the 'C' also stands for choices-- the choices the youths will make that will determine how they will meet the challenges and how they will shape their paths in life.
"You will have many choices to make...make them wisely," he said.
"We don't want to lose your light to HIV. We want you never to get HIV in the first place. That's why today's focus on prevention, ABC - Abstinence, Being Faithful, and Using Condoms - is so important. We want you to remain healthy and happy in order for you to achieve your dreams."
DeLisi challenged the youths to change Uganda's future by helping to create the first AIDS-free generation in the country.
"By starting with A-B-C, you are taking the first steps toward protecting yourself and building a better world - both for you, and for all of Uganda," he said.