New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Dr. Love Talks to the President

I told people I intend to finish the year with a bang and they could not believe me. This is it, my friends; a letter to the President of Uganda. Your Excellency, my first three points are similar: I love and respect you (X 3). And not like people who are aiming at envelopes do, but like those who want big posts.

I watched you in Rakai during the World AIDS Day celebrations, reading out my thoughts on the microphone and I was amused at how much we think alike.

Indeed, HIV is a frail enemy considering the more aggressive adversaries we have fought over time; Amin, Obote, Kony, corruption and Besigye. It doesn't attack or beat security like terrorists!

It doesn't open its eyes wide and use its hoarse voice to call people to walk to work! It just sits there, minding its own business somewhere in our private parts. It is us who invade it there, wake it up and beg it to return home with us.

Why we want to do this is still unclear even to the red hot CIID. May be our names rhyme with HIV, just like Kirumira and Kiruhura; confusing the district money to end up in the other hole.

To starve off the lazy virus, people must be told to keep off the grass until those who have it perish. But the problem with this, Mr President, is that it has been our favourite strategy for long and that must be the reason the virus is ever smiling.

Preaching abstinence and faithfulness actually works, but not for the virus because bullets from preaching never penetrate skins.

Just look around at your people; 99% religious, fully-loaded with Uganda martyrs, pastors, archbishops and overflowing churches and mosques, national prayers and fasting. Yet, we still, single- handedly, make sure all the 10 Commandments are broken with every passing hour.

Your own Katondoozi may rhyme Uganda with corruption, child sacrifi ce, HIV, fraudsters, election cheats and what have you. Yes, your Excellency, Uganda has too much per capita preaching and it is not working!

Personally, I cannot remember a day in my adult life where I have failed to commit sin because a priest told me not to. I am either too busy to succumb to temptation or I just fail to afford it. But when I am good, my pastor takes the credit! Just like Bigirimaana and Bugirimaani may seem alike, but are different (one cut aid because of the other), preaching and effect are miles apart!

Look at corruption; how much preaching have you done yourself? So, if preaching has failed in simpler wars, how do we trust it with an HIV war? No wonder we are failing.

That very day in Rakai, after your spirited venom against promiscuity, you don't want to know how people spent their evening! The truth is that humankind is not a monogamous species. Thanks to God, the temptation to stray is hormonal and difficult to tame using behavioural messages. We need stronger gates to help people remain chaste.

Left unguarded, with just a word of caution is like reminding the offi ce of the Prime Minister accountants of their catechism or Sunday school lessons. Take a leaf from your two Kabamba attacks. When one failed, you changed tactics and the other succeeded. That is what we need, Mr President, to change tactics.

Luckily enough, there are scientifi cally proven prevention technologies, which other countries have tried, including our fellow poor neighbours with visible success. They include access to testing, early treatment, condoms and circumcision.

You were right to say, the other day, that people who think they can circumcise to stop HIV are wasting time.

None of these methods is 100% perfect, but a combined deployment will help. So, they should stop thinking and actually do it. Your Excellency, when we combine what is working elsewhere with our own failing ABC, we shall roll back the enemy. Then your enemies will stop referring to poor leadership as one of the factors in the failing HIV struggle in Uganda.

But do you want to know what other things they say? Maybe not. I should not spoil your Christmas mood. Merry Christmas, Mr President.

GRAIN OF SCIENCE:

Many women can forego sex for chocolate

A survey in the UK has found out that most women would rather give up sex than chocolate. The survey of 2,000 people found that alcohol, chocolate and sex were the most difficult things to forego, followed by caffeine and swearing.

When it comes to giving things up for a month, one in five men - 22% - said sex was one of the hardest things to live without, while only one in 10 women - 9% - agreed. 22% of women said chocolate would be the last thing they would forego.

While 59% of the people thought women were more likely to be able to abstain from sex, only 5% thought men could. Men were thought to have less willpower than women once they set their mind to a challenge, with 19% of people saying men lacked the ability to control their urges compared with 31% for women.

The survey was carried out to mark the launch of Cancer Research UK's fundraising campaign Dryathlon, encouraging people to test their willpower by staying off alcohol from January.

When asked about how their willpower changed over the year, half of the UK admitted that the winter period- in particular Christmas and New Year - "is when we are at our weakest."

The study also found that men are commitment-shy, with more than half - 56% - of those questioned saying women were more committed to relationships compared to 5% of men. While people thought men were stronger-willed in work and sport, 31% thought that women were more likely to be able to stick to a diet than men.

Prof. Robert West of health psychology at the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre said when you take exposure to temptation and strength of desire out of the equation you are left with "willpower": the force that our plans have in controlling our actions.

"Individuals with more willpower are probably more likely to achieve their objectives, whatever these might be," he said. "Some believe that willpower is like a muscle - it can get tired, but it can also be strengthened with training. The idea is that getting people to practise doing something that requires self-control builds a general ability to do this."

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