Families reflect on 40 years of HIV

 A doctor takes a blood sample from a patient . In April 2021, Uganda Aids Commission said there had been reduction in HIV/Aids infections in the country. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

What you need to know:

  • As Uganda marks the World Aids Day, families of those who died from the scourge in those areas reflect on their 40-year journey.

Forty years ago, Kasensero and Kyebe sub-counties in Rakai District are believed to have had the first reported cases of HIV/Aids in Uganda.

A one Nakafeero, a resident of Kasensero, a fishing community, was said to be the first person to die from the Aids-related illnesses.

As Uganda marks the World Aids Day, families of those who died from the scourge in those areas reflect on their 40-year journey.

Mr Golodian Kiganda’s father, Golodian Kivumbi, succumbed to HIV/Aids in 1982 shortly after his blood samples had been taken for diagnosis.

“During that time, our family and a few others were isolated and we could hardly associate with the community members. They insisted that my father had stolen sacks of mudfish from Tanzanians who had cursed him and his family,” Mr Kiganda recalls.

“Medics from a Tanzanian-based hospital had earlier in 1981 taken blood samples from my father, but had failed to diagnose the strange disease that was then spreading very fast,” Mr Kiganda says.

“This gave rise to a rage of misconceptions about the disease. It presented strange signs and symptoms, including diarrhoea, itching of the skin, weight loss and swollen wounds with a skin rash all over the body,” he adds.

Mr Kiganda watched as the disease claimed his parents, five siblings, and about 20 relatives.

His father’s results returned after four years, which revealed that the disease is transmitted through blood and sexual intercourse.

That discovery brought a ray of hope to locals. It has continued to bring normality thanks to sensitisation from government and other stakeholders.

“I have been on ARVs since 2000 and I have been able to take my children to school. We have now formed a group of more than 30 people to build  confidence in people living with HIV so that they can fight the stigma,” Mr Francis Yiga, a resident, said.

New challenges
However, new challenges have since arisen, for instance fishermen at Kasensero Landing Site shun condom use.  

“I have had conversations with youth but none seems to be using condoms even when they indulge with sex workers,” Mr Peter Kaali, a fisherman, who has lived with Aids for last 35 years, says. 

“Only 2 percent of the Kasensero community endeavour to use condoms, which partly explains the spread of HIV,” he adds.

The district has more than 9,650 people living with HIV/Aids, many of whom are on medication.

Ms Kuruthum Namatovu, the district HIV focal person, says the fight against HIV in Rakai and neighbouring districts has reduced the prevalence, which now stands at 4.8 percent in Rakai from the 45 percent in 1982.

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