At the 2018 Y+ Summit organised by Uganda Network of Young People Living With HIV (UNYPA), we were reminded that we are all stronger than HIV. We can all conquer HIV regardless of our status.Each of us has a role to play in this fight. On top of this ability, we have a responsibility, as young people to ensure that the 90-90-90 strategy is achieved. This strategy stresses that 90% of all HIV positive people know their status, 90% of those diagnosed have access to ARV treatment, and 90% of those under treatment achieve viral suppression by 2020 (hence the swanky 90-90-90 name).
The Summit, which was held at Nob View Hotel in Ntinda was deep fam. The facts and statistics on HIV were presented fearlessly, because UNYPA had created an enabling environment to talk about the most hard hitting HIV issues. Then it was fun, with music, dance, food and drinks. At some point, we thought the summit edged into a feast, but that is a story for another day.
Anyway, we picked some key pointers on how we can exploit our potential in ending the fight against HIV, and we would love to share these with you. Read on and let’s make the change together, shall we?
First, HIV/AIDS is non discriminatory. It is a disease, so there is no one who can brag that they can’t get infected. It doesn’t know race, sexual orientation or religion. Canon Gideon Byamugisha, one of the speakers at the summit is an Anglican reverend who has lived with it for 17 years. He says “I am a religious man, but I too got HIV. This should show you that anyone is prone to getting HIV. You have to be very careful with your life.” Let this point sink in.
Also, by “being careful” the good Reverend wasn’t only referring to abstaining or having protected sex. HIV can be contracted through other ways like sharing sharp objects or when the blood of an HIV+ person gets in contact with that of a negative person through a cut on the skin. For his case, Reverend Gideon does not know where he contracted the virus. He and his wife were not tested before their marriage, and in 1988 he was involved in a serious bicycling accident which required injections and a blood transfusion at a time when medical supplies and blood were not routinely screened for HIV. Therefore, crossly examining the syringes used on you in the hospital, and making sure your cuts and wounds are dressed as well as taking precaution like wearing gloves when handling bodily fluids from other people is a plus for your health.
Update your status. Not like the way you update the one whatsapp, but something similar. We mean, regularly take an HIV test and be updated on your stand, so you can determine how to lead your life. If you find that you are negative, keep negative, through abstinence, proper contraceptive usage like proper condom use and not sharing sharp objects.
If you are positive however, start on your medication immediately. Even if you are the most prayerful and religious person, remember that medication is equally important. In the words of Reverend Gideon, “Take your medication like there is no God, and pray to God like there is no medicine”.
BTW, if you find out that you are positive, self pity won’t help. Get up, get out there and take your high spot in society. Get involved in community activities, work hard and enjoy life to the fullest. You are young and you just started living, so don’t let HIV take that away from ya!
Besides, the prevention methods are within reach. There are free condoms for you to use should you decide to have sex, and they are largely accessible. Ensure to check the expiry date and to use them properly. In case you need to know more about proper condom usage, contact Sauti Senga at the bottom of our website and we will give you the answers.
Finally, here is a key to note. Intentional infection of another with HIV is a crime in Uganda. You can do jail time of up to 10 years if you are found guilty of willfully and intentionally transmitting HIV. Whereas it may be difficult to determine what is willful and intentional, it is important to be on the safe side of the law by ensuring that as a young positive, you don’t infect anyone else with HIV. By doing this, you are ensuring that there are zero new infections and directly ending HIV as a one person team.
Be reminded that HIV is not a death sentence, that stigma is soooo 1900, and that all of us, positive or negative have a right to a fully productive and healthy life. Bear these in mind and let’s change the world.