Fighting AIDS: Turning to the Youth
As a student at Makerere, Lambert Rusoke sees a lot and hears a lot. Especially now, when the G8 and groups such as Live Aid are focusing on Africa, and now when US First Lady Laura Bush is presently in Africa, concerned with issues predominantly related to AIDS, it is refreshing that our youth are rising up and facing up to the challenge.
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First published: July 15, 2005
If you have ever been admitted to, or is at Makerere University, or any higher institution of learning, you must have come across a message at the concluding remarks of the admission letter; that adhere us to live and love carefully.
The university administration is very kind and honest, caring to remind the young people of how to protect themselves, if they are to keep what took them to university upright in a bid to reserve the logo ‘Building for the Future’. In a bid to cub the danger of HIV/AIDS and its related consequences, Makerere Students’ Guild organized a health week from 11-19 March 2005, which focused on HIV/AIDS ands reproductive health. Outsiders have said so many ills about “campusers”. Its kind of unfortunate that many believe that these students are out of hand and that their being in this freedom is hitting below the belt as this easily propels them to welcome temptation in their lives. This is what the annual event aims at putting out clearly to the doubting Thomases that the youth are up to the challenge.
In the theme “A Challenge for the Youth”, there was a walk to parliament that preceded the presentation of a memorandum to the speaker on moral transformation, pornography and their contribution to the moral disintegration of our society in line with HIV/AIDS. On their way to parliament, students held above placards with all kinds of writing condemning the corrupt moral acts. They brought the city to a standstill as they attracted attention of everyone, yelling at people in taxis assuring them of their being the major agents in the killing the young people. To them it was these working people in taxis and passenger cars who were guilty of being sugar mummies and daddies. A call for abstinence and being faithful to one partner was overheard from the ‘intellectual’ crowd, and everybody would prayed for them to put these words into actions.
In one of the debates and talks that culminated in the health week, it was argued that “campusers”, mainly females, are exposed to this disease, due to their succumb ness to the lies of working group males. Girls enter into relationships with these old men just to earn something from the men’s finances. They completely ignore relationships with their age mates because these cannot foot expenses for their needs. And testimonies from some of the culprits indicate that it is rare to get financial assistance from these old men without any strings attached. In the long run they end up trading their bodies for good fortunes, which turn out to be fateful.
In other instances, it is the irresponsibility of the students who turn to drinking and run out of focus to the extent of suffering the detriment of this evil world. That is why it is recommended that youth travel in groups because, at least by a chanced coincidence, not all can get drunk at the same terrible level.
A need for the youth to be informed is a priority just to be sure that they heed to the advice. Thus, in the health week, services like free counseling and testing were on hand. The turn up was impressive as many young people turned out to know their status. Mixed feelings about the testing could not be left unmentioned. The ill courageous ones could not go for the testing saying that it would be better for one to test after he or she finished school. If it so happened that one was positive, with the loads of tabulations at their academic table, their grades would surely be affected. Some would go to the extent of dropping out of school, as they would see no need of studying while knowing death was awaiting them.
Not all think at the same footing, and thus the courageous ones confessed of how this type of testing had turned out to be a habit for them. Not that one should test after messing up, to be sure, but they should make it part of their bi-monthly menu. Some even get this encouragement from their families who advocate for compulsory testing during holidays. In this way, the parents are giving a hand to the youth to kick out the disease, by helping them be careful in their actions. Due to human weaknesses, no body is termed perfect and can thus befall temptation.
Many will heed to the idea of abstinence but there are those who will fail to control their bodies. A cause for premarital sex was dismissed and that young relating couples should know how far is too far in a healthy boy-girl relationship. I am reminded of an article by Mr. Andrew Mwenda, some time in the Monitor, titled “Let Children Play Sex, Just Teach Them How to Play it Safe”. It did raise dust among the readers, I remember. But it leads us to the ABC philosophy of Abstain, Be faithful, and if not, then Condoms, because failure to follow this, would add a D for Death, to complete the puzzle to ABCD.
With the support from the university administration and the sponsors of the health week, the future could be bright to the students. There was an encouragement for HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, distribution of booklets and brochures about the disease, abstinence rallies, so many seminars and the information being extended to even the younger students in primary and secondary.
AIDS can be defeated through positive living if awareness is increased. Miss MUBS’ antics moved me in answering questions at the Miss MUBS beauty pageant. She uttered that one of the things she would use her beauty crown on, was to work hand in hand with all possible sources to increase the awareness about HIV/AIDS in the youth. This feat, if achieved, would clad accolades for whoever took part in the concern to keep the youth alive because surely the challenge is theirs to build for the future.
Not all hope is lost and the country can turn to the youth to fight the killer disease.
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First published: July 15, 2005