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Uganda AIDS Commission

Behavioural Change Best Weapon Against HIV/AIDS

Published in the New Vision 17-Jan-2018

Author: Dr. Nelson Musoba - Acting Director General

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Uganda offered the first approaches to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. With the ABC strategy of Abstinence, Being Faithful, and Condom use, Uganda achieved great success and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS reduced from 18% in the early 1990s to 6.4% by 2005. Other countries came to Uganda to learn from Uganda’s tremendous success against the scourge.

The HIV/AIDS success story of Uganda was directly led by President Yoweri Museveni, who led the national HIV campaigns, on educating Ugandans about behavioral change, as the most important way of fighting the epidemic. The communication approach was in the form of the sound of a drum. In many of our cultures, the drum is used for warning and mobilizing people against danger. At that time, the messages that came through the media showed the depth of the problem. People understood because the messages directly appealed to them, causing them to change their lifestyles.

In the beginning, Uganda became a global reference point in the fight against HIV/AIDS; a success story, a model and a leader.

Later, unfortunately, messages that communicate directly to the people slowly faded, giving way to uncommitted, undirected and unclear messages. What is communicated today changes overnight, what is on billboards is different from what is on TV, different from what is mentioned on radio or what is in newspapers, what is preached in church or what children are told. No wonder, only 36% of young people have comprehensive knowledge of HIV according to the Uganda Health Demographic Survey (2016).

about 1,300,000 million people are living with HIV and there are 52,000 new infections every year. Among the young women and girls between 15-24 years, by the end of 2015 the new infections stood at 18,894, translating to 363 new infections per week. For young men and boys between 15-24 years, new infections stood at 10,615 translating to 204 new infections per week. This means 567 young people contracting HIV per week. About 28,000 people have died of AIDS-related conditions and out of these, 60% are men.

Some of those who are positive fear to talk about their status due to high levels of stigma and many see it as a scandal when it happens. We cannot succeed in the fight against HIV/AIDS unless we break the silence and stigma that surrounds the disease. It is important to accept that AIDS is not an individual problem; it affects all of us. People living with AIDS are not different from people with any other illness.

To prevent the spread of HIV, the general public needs to be educated on how to prevent infection and to change their social attitudes. This means leaders; parents and all people need to engage in massive campaigns against the epidemic.

Leaders ought to seek for and provide accurate information on how to prevent AIDS; mobilize communities to adopt risk reduction strategies; encourage people to test for HIV and stick to prevention measures if negative or seek treatment if positive. In addition, they should motivate and create an enabling environment for young people to stay in school and to discourage risky cultural practices that expose people to HIV infection.

Parents ought to be open and talk to children about the dangers of AIDS. In addition they should set an example for children to emulate and discuss areas that expose children to AIDS in addition to the dangers that follow risky lifestyles. We have achieved a lot in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, but of what use is it to bring children up only to lose them at an adolescent stage?

We should know that advocating for the ABC strategy still works. These primary prevention strategies continue to provide value in the national HIV/AIDS response and need to be revitalized. The most predominant channel through which HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner. It is important to encourage young people to delay engagement in sexual intercourse until they are ready for a lifelong relationship and the consequences that come with sexual engagements. Similarly, married partners should be faithful to each other. In those cases where the AB method fails, the Condom option applies.

In a move to bridge the unclear and inconsistent messages gap, the Uganda AIDS Commission put in place a Message Clearance and Harmonization Committee to thoroughly peruse through the messages before they are made public. This aims at ensuring that messages are clear, factual and consistent. This has improved the situation.

A call to all is that anyone involved in manufacturing and or distributing messages about HIV/AIDS ought to ensure that messages are clear, factual and consistent. This includes getting them cleared by Uganda AIDS Commission. The battle against HIV/AIDS is not new; it was previously fought and success achieved with massive and effective communication

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Contact Details

Postal Address:
Uganda AIDS Commission,
Plot 1–3 Salim Bay Road,
P. O. Box 10779,
Kampala – Uganda

+256-414 699502
+256-414 699503