By Nellie Nakitende
As Uganda prepares to celebrate the World HIVV/AIDS Day with the rest of the world, it should be noted that the country has managed to eliminate the spread of the virus by 40% as of the year 2020.
Along this journey the Uganda Network of Youth Living With HIV/AIDS (UNYPA), managed to create a Platform for youths living positively dubbed the Y+ Pageant, which is aimed at empowering youth living with HIV/AIDS.
This year’s pageant which was held at the Kampala Serena Hotel under the theme; ‘Changing the Narrative’ had lots of young people who were willing to change the world because being positive doesn’t make them lesser human beings.
Her Excellence Natalie Brown, Ambassador of U.S to Uganda, who was Chief Guest at the function, was quoted saying that; “I am excited about this year’s pageant. I can’t think of a beautiful way to start my term in this country than by taking part in an activity that’s designed and implemented by young people committed to changing lives.”
The winners of this year’s Y+ Pageant HIV Ambassadors 2020/2021 are both from Northern Uganda. They include; Oscar Otim and Aol Gladys.
After emerging winner, Aol said that; “The struggle against HIV/AIDS will never succeed without addressing stigma. I have personally suffered stigma and I know it can be more lethal than HIV. I am going to fight for the rights of young people who are facing stigma, using my new title – “HIV Ambassador.”
She added that; “It’s we HIV positive people to de-stigmatize the community about HIV/AIDS.”
Lots of young people today living positively have shown a great impact by coming out to share their statuses with the world.
It’s on this note that I stumbled upon a one, Aporo Sarah who had this to share; “Every time an HIV negative man who is interested in me walks away because I am HIV positive, I perfectly understand (Note: I always tell them my status from the word go so they can decide before it’s too late).
I also ask myself if I were in his shoes, would I stick around? To be honest the answer is unknown, because I have lived in both, I was once negative and now positive.”
She continued that; “Yes so many negative men approach me with intentions of having a sexual relationship with me but I am always sceptical, not because I’m afraid I will infect them, which is impossible now because I am undetectable. But because I am not sure they will stick around without continuously reminding me of my positive status or literally taking advantage of my alleged vulnerability.”
She also noted that; “I know hundreds of couples who are in discordant relationships but trust me it takes God sent love beyond the statement “I love you”.
Are you positive and searching for a life partner, relax and wait upon the Lord than desperately falling for any Tom, Dick and Harry. You owe no one a relationship because you are positive, you didn’t invite HIV to your life.”
The courage found in these young people despite the hardships, discrimination and stigma they have to go through after disclosing their statuses is only God-given.
As we celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1st, 2020, which is tomorrow, changing the narrative shouldn’t be left to positively living people but a battle we all should engage ourselves into.
Statistics show that Uganda as of 2019 had 1.5million people living with HIV, 5.7% of these being women, 4.3% being men and the highest percentage 65% being children between the ages of 10 to 8 years.
Other groups particularly affected are sex workers, adolescent girls, men who have sex with other men and those living on fishing sites. The good news is there has been an increase of people accessing the Anti-Retroviral treatment.
The AiIDS Act, signed into law in 2014, provides for the creation of the AIDS Trust fund through which government levies taxes on Alcohol and soft drinks to fund the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The objective of the fund according to law is to secure a predictable and sustainable means of procuring goods and services for HIV/AIDS testing, counselling and treatment.
ATF is meant to reverse the current trend of donor reliance to address the funding gaps in the HIV/AIDS fight.
Happy World International AIDS Day.