A decade's struggle against HIV/AIDS-President Museveni once again takes the lead

Friday 8th November 2013

"Heath is wealth" - he cautions Ugandans against reckless behaviour.

State House Uganda - NewsState House Uganda - News President Yoweri Museveni, a world-renowned fighter against AIDS, broke the silence against HIV/AIDS in the early days of his Government when many of his peers remained silent. He has once again taken the lead, a few hours ago, by a public test of HIV to encourage voluntary testing among Ugandans and emphasize the need for Ugandans to know their HIV status in order to prevent new infections and ensure treatment, care and well-being of those who test positive. The President's gesture encourages men to participate actively in their families' health.

Speaking at Kiswa Health Centre IV Bugolobi where he had the test taken, President Museveni cautioned Ugandans against reckless behaviour. "Risky behaviour is unnecessary. Health is wealth; when you are healthy, you are productive," the President said. He also explained that he was not accompanied by his wife, Maama Janet Museveni, because she had a backache.

Maama Janet founded the Uganda Womens' Efforts to Save Orphans (UWESO) to save Uganda's children who had been orphaned by the epidemic. A God fearing mother and Uganda's icon of correct family values, Maama Janet Museveni is at the forefront of the campaign to Prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. Millions, have therefore, understandably been eager to watch the couple that gave hope to millions of Africans take a public test together.

President Museveni spoke openly against HIV/AIDS in the 80s at a time when discussion of the epidemic was a taboo. It is said the leader of the National Resistance Army warned the freedom fighters against the epidemic during the bush war and urged behavioural change. He took the campaign to schools, the media, and all public gatherings he addressed when he took charge of the country. The President showed the world that AIDS could be overcome and that Africans could have access to treatment. The message of behaviour change and hope built on strong leadership and courage attracted partners to aid Uganda fight the epidemic. It reduced the number of orphans and improved quality of lives of people living with HIV-AIDS.

Indeed in the 1990's, western Governments lauded Uganda for setting the standard in the continent's fight against HIV/AIDS. President Museveni pioneered the now famous "Abstain, Be Faithful -use a Condom" (ABC) that showed Ugandans how best to protect themselves. As a result infection rates fell from 18% in the 1980s to 6%.

Uganda was deservingly recognised as a leader in Africa's HIV/AIDS response and was one of the first four developing countries in the world to provide its people living with HIV, access to life-saving treatment among children. New infections among children declined remarkably. A big number of children born with HIV in the 80's live quality lives thanks to Antiretroviral therapy (ARVs), and have been able to attain University education.

The number of women accessing prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services in the country also increased rapidly from 45% in 2011 to 73% in 2012.

The President's public HIV test has sure boosted the fight against HIV/AIDS and renewed the spirit in the face of complacency noted in the recent years. Relentlessly fighting the epidemic towards an HIV-free generation, he cautions young people to avoid HIV whenever he addresses a public gathering. He has said recently that "HIV is not like flu. One does not catch it on a bus. It is not caused by a vector like Malaria. The path is known." Quoting the Bible, he has told young people that there is time for everything and that they can avoid sex until such a time they are very well prepared.

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