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“New cultural, social approaches are necessary to fight HIV/AIDS in Uganda”
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“New cultural, social approaches are necessary to fight HIV/AIDS in Uganda”

A broader coalition of government and non-governmental actors need to work together to find a solution to the problem of HIV/AIDS in Uganda, writes Munguongeyo Ivan, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kampala.

Despite marked progress in reducing the new onset of HIV infections in Uganda, particularly among children, the country continues to bear a high burden from the crippling disease, a new report shows.

The HIV and AIDS Uganda Country Progress Report estimates that 1.5 million people were living with HIV in 2015. Uganda is classified as a ‘high burden’ country as the number of persons living with HIV has continued to increase.

In order to take the next step in combating the disease, the government must recognize and support the traditional authorities and faith communities in the fight against AIDS. These groups are extremely influential, especially in the rural areas.

In past generations, elders, for example, instructed children about sexual norms. Unfortunately, this rarely happens today.

Traditional healers also have a central role to play. In many communities, traditional healers are the first point in cases of illness for many people, especially in rural areas. They deal not only with physical but spiritual well-being. Traditional healers are widely consulted by those with STIs as there is considerable stigma and discrimination associated with STIs in Uganda. Traditional healers could also help break the barriers of silence surrounding the taboo discussion of sexual issues, STIs and HIV/AIDS.

The faith communities could also play a more constructive role in HIV prevention and care. They should emphasize on the importance of abstinence and mutual faithfulness as the government promotes condom use as a technical approach to HIV prevention. Unfortunately, there are differences in opinion between the government and the faith communities on condom use. The failure to reach common ground on this issue remains part of an unresolved puzzle.

The government and the faith communities should work together to develop theological approaches that emphasize love, compassion and hope in dealing with regards to AIDS. The faith communities will continue to have great influence in the lives and death of Ugandans, and need to find a role that is as constructive and compassionate as possible. Developing an active role for the faith communities and traditional authorities in the fight against HIV/AIDS remains an important challenge. It is one that requires commitment, honesty, and moral courage from all concerned if it is to succeed.

photo credit: ToGa Wanderings via photopin (license)

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About me: I am Munguongeyo Ivan, from Kampala, Uganda. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies from Makerere University and currently am pursuing Master’s Degree in Rural Development at the same University. My aim is to be a lecturer in the development studies discipline. I also have wide knowledge in serving local communities and specifically working with NGOs to improve on the welfare of the rural poor. I am currently a volunteer with an NGO called Hands of Love Foundation.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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