Return to abstinence, Museveni tells youth

Sandra Asiimwe,10, an orphan makes an appeal to President Museveni to build her grandparents a house. She was speaking during the event to mark World Aids Day in Kasensero Village, Rakai District on Saturday. Asiimwe lost her parents to Aids and has since been living with her grandparents. PHOTO BY ISAAC KASAMANI

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Ugandans should embrace fidelity and monogamy as measures of fighting HIV/Aids in the country, President Museveni has said. Speaking during the commemoration of World Aids Day on Saturday, the President expressed displeasure with current anti-HIV campaign messages that centre on the use of condoms and safe male circumcision.


President Museveni has called for a return to fidelity and monogamy that helped Uganda turn the tide against HIV.

Speaking at the bustling fishing village of Kasensero, Rakai, on the shores of Lake Victoria, where the first cases of Aids deaths were reported three decades ago, the President said the multiplicity of current messages was encouraging complacency, promiscuity, and resurgence in Uganda’s HIV prevalence rate.

Mr Museveni was particularly critical of messages about condom use and safe male medical circumcision, which experts say reduce the risk of HIV infection. “Messages now emphasise condoms which is wrong, why engage with people you do not trust in the first place?” Mr Museveni asked.

“When you are circumcised, you don’t become metallic or immune to HIV. The Bagisu, have for long, as part of their culture, undergone circumcision but still die of HIV/Aids.” “Uganda was one of the countries with the lowest condom use per capita, we departed from the main message, which was to instill fear to avoid promiscuity. Condom use was meant to be a last resort in circumstances where one could not abstain,” the President said.

HIV prevalence in Uganda has risen from 6.4 per cent five years ago to 7.3 per cent, according to the 2011 Aids Indicator Survey.

At Kasensero Landing Site, a bustling enclave of easy money and even easier sex, the prevalence rate is 41 per cent, the highest in the country. Uganda is one of only two African countries where HIV prevalence has shot up in recent years, the other being Chad. The rest of the world has recorded a drop of 50 per cent.

The President’s comments reflect a lack of clarity in Uganda’s response to the HIV epidemic. Heralded as a global success story and pioneer of the ABC model (Abstain, Be Faithful and use Condoms), the country is now struggling with complacency.

Prof. Vinand Nantulya, the chairperson of Uganda Aids Commission, admitted the challenge facing the country.
“We have inaccurate, contradictory messages on all FM stations and where there is contradiction, the public gets confused,” he said.

Experts say the government must also invest more in HIV prevention. “Messages have to be reworked and be unambiguous if the epidemic is to be stemmed and infections get to zero,” Ms Janet Jackson, the coordinator for the UN Aids agency, said. The government only invests 11 per cent of the total money spent on fighting HIV/Aids in Uganda.