The sixth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) stresses the need to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases by 2015. There is a special emphasis on educating and reversing the spread of HIV among those 15-24.
However, the challenge often seems out of reach because of the realities in a world where rape still exists as a weapon of war, where talking about sex and sexuality is still a taboo in many parts of the world, and where women are still exchanged as material goods in the name of the price of the bride.
In Africa, HIV/AIDS is one of the most common diseases affecting young people and one of the leading causes of deaths in many developing countries. According to the situation analysis – Uganda Gender Policy (2007) Uganda Gender Policy (2007) (.pdf format), the findings are a bit hopeful as it found that ‘overall there has been declining trends of HIV infection from a peak of 18% in 1992 to 7% in 2005. The percentages of women who are HIV positive are 7.8% as compared to 6.4% of men, among 15-49 year olds. HIV prevalence for females is 12.8% in urban and 6.5% in rural areas’ but recent statistics indicate that Uganda has approximately 150,000 children living with HIV.
That is how many young people living with HIV contracted the virus, and now an entire generation must face this reality. More and more “young positives” are telling their stories, and these are two examples of young Ugandans who have collaborated with others to share their experiences with others.
I first heard about Barbara Kemigisa in a local church in Kampala, Uganda. She was giving a testimony about her life. When she first started talking, many people in the congregation were ready to hear the common conclusion “I thank God for……..” However, she caught everyone’s attention when she said these words “I am HIV Positive”. The mood changed as she went on narrating her ordeal and how she acquired the disease. She concluded by saying that being HIV positive does not mean the end of the world. She has big dreams just like any other young girl. In July 2010 at the African Youth Forum (AYF) that took place during the Africa Union (AU) meeting in Kampala, I was privileged to hear Barbara speak to the African youth. The talk was recorded and uploaded to YouTube on the AYF channel:
In another video produced by Ronald Kasendwa (@kasendwa), we hear the story of another young positive, Winnie Nansumba from Uganda. In the video titled “Gained Hope,” she shares her very personal experience about the challenges faced by children that were born HIV positive. Winnie says she was born in a family of four, but lost all of her siblings to HIV/AIDS. She also shares the difficulties she faced while at school, and how she fought stigma.
Ronald, the producer of this short video about Winnie has been involved in a number of citizen media projects. In 2009, Ronald joined the International Educational & Resource Network (iEARN) under the Adobe Youth Voices program (AYV). While in AYV, Ronald produced a number of media projects intended to create positive social change. For example, he produced a documentary about “Gender Disparity in Science.” The documentary unveiled the hidden causes of low participation and retention of the young girls in the field of science.
With the persistent poverty, exclusion, discrimination, and inadequate investment in social and health services for persons living with HIV/AIDS, there is need to ACT now to stop its spread and effects for the future generations by encouraging young positives to speak out.