Afrika

5.12.2005 | Von:
Jennifer Bakyawa

Im Kampf gegen HIV/Aids

Combatting HIV/Aids (Englischer Originaltext)

Two children who have lost their parents as a result of Aids.Two children who have lost their parents as a result of Aids. (© Andrew Mogridge, SXC.hu)
Elvis Kyeyune Basudde is a journalist who turned into an HIV/AIDS activist not long ago. He is fighting AIDS today. For more than a year Basudde has survived using antiretroviral drugs. "Turning to God helped me accept my status. Each passing day, I see it as a blessing," says Basudde. Until recently, antiretrovirals were for a few rich Ugandans. In 1998, to be initiated, an AIDS patient would pay $ 555 and another $ 2.200 per each following month. This meant that less than 500 Ugandans could afford a treatment with drugs at the Joint Clinical Research Centre. Today, antiretrovirals cost about $ 28 per month per patient. More than 6.000 AIDS patients receive the drugs freely through the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. In the early 1990s, those who could not afford the ARVs depended on local herbal remedies for survival. Dr. Dorothy Balaba, the director of a local health organisation THETA recalls herself: "People were desperate! There were no solutions from physicians. They thought HIV/AIDS was more than physical. It had to be spiritual, a sin against God."

THETA means Traditional and modern Health practitioners Together Against AIDS and other diseases. The organisation was founded in 1992, a decade after the first two AIDS cases were identified in Kasensero, a landing site on Lake Victoria, South Western Uganda. It started with a clinical study on herbal medicines used by traditional healers. "The research revealed that traditional healers had a big clientele who found their treatments effective," explains Balaba. Consequently a training of healers followed. By April 2001, about 1.000 traditional healers had received awareness seminars. About 300 participated in an intensive two-years training and certification program in STD/AIDS counselling and education. As one means of disseminating information, Bakayimbira Dramactors was appealing to theatre groups.

The artist group which has been in existence for over 25 years has written over 50 plays, two of them on HIV/AIDS. The group´s first play "Ndiwulira" [translated as "I will listen"] has been performed with great success since 1991. Ndiwulira is a name of a maize parasite who didn´t leave quickly enough the maize and was therefore ending cooked. In allusion to the title, the story is about a young man who does not listen to advice about his lifestyle and relationships. He gets HIV infected and finally dies of AIDS. The play has been performed throughout Uganda as a part of AIDS education and awareness programs. It also has been distributed on videos and on national television. "I wanted to portray my personal experiences. I wanted to use it as an awakening so that people stop keeping silent about HIV/AIDS but know that they can do something about it," states Charles James Senkubuge. Senkubuge is the Chairman of Bakayimbira Dramactors, one of the oldest professional drama groups in Uganda. Senkubuge had at the time lost two brothers and two sisters due to AIDS.

Last year the artist group performed another play on HIV/AIDS, The School Canteen. This play is set in a time when Uganda started to face HIV/AIDS. Unlike in the early 1990s when people did not know how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent it, this is no longer the case and it may have led to general complacency. The play portrays how harmful peer pressure can be and teaches students life skills and building self esteem.

According to Prof. David Serwadda, Director of the Makerere University Institute of Public Health, HIV/AIDS exposed the inefficiency in health care delivery of the formal sector. Serwadda was the first doctor in Uganda to link that young patients of Kaposi´s Sarcoma could be infected by HIV. "This forced government to forge partnerships with non governmental organisations in delivery, care and prevention of services," he says. This multi sectoral approach coupled with a policy that has advocated for openness about the disease over the years enabled Uganda to lower its peak prevalence rate of 18 per cent in 1991 to six per cent in 2001. Uganda was the first African country to declare that it had an HIV/AIDS problem. A recent study by the Ministry of Health indicates that prevalence rates stand at seven per cent, which is still lower than that of its neighbours Kenya and Tanzania whose stand at 9.6 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Since 2003, Uganda, prevalence rates were monitored using sentinel surveillance, national and district based behavioural surveys, commercial sex workers behavioural surveys, AIDS cases surveillance, TB case reporting, two community studies that have been ongoing for more than 15 years and tests of blood donors. "Access to antiretroviral drugs should be an important component of a strategy to support people living with HIV as well as preventing transmission of infection. In Uganda, this might be the lacking component to bring the sero- prevalence further down from the six or seven per cent where it has stagnated over the last few years," Uganda´s President, Yoweri Museveni suggested at the XIV International Conference on AIDS and STDs held in Bangkok, Thailand in July 2004.

World-wide, according to UNAIDS, there are 40 million people living with HIV and 70 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa which has only ten per cent of the (6.3 billion) world´s population. In Uganda , about one million peoples were estimated to be living with the virus by the end of 2001. Since the declaring of the first two AIDS cases in 1982 over 60.000 people had lost their lives to the virus by the end of 2001. The many deaths which came in succession especially in the late 1980s and 1990s forced Ugandans to cope with the few resources. Cultural networks which were dying out because of economic development were quickly revived. Neighbours started looking out for others especially when one was bed ridden or lost a relative, fearing that the trouble would one day be in their house and nobody would assist. The AIDS Support Organisation´s foundation (TASO) was based on such networks. TASO was started in 1987 by 17 Ugandans who were affected by HIV/AIDS. "The networking goes beyond religious beliefs. Everyone including cultural leaders believe they have a contribution to make towards stopping further spread of the desease," says Ms. Juliana, the Training Manager at TASO. Such networks have promoted the environmental hygiene. TASO holds regular village competitions on how clean a home should be kept. Winners are given small prizes such as basins or jerrycans. TASO´s vision is to give hope through positive living. The concept of positive living advocates for faithfulness, use of condoms when infected, not to take alcohol and avoid smoking, having a balanced diet and seeking counselling whenever one is stressed or depressed. Myths such as HIV/AIDS being a curse from the gods have now been solved, says Ms. Gertrude Muzoora, a trainer at TASO. The atmosphere is no longer a threat as it used to be. Positive living has enabled most TASO clients to live with the virus longer even without necessarily taking antiretrovirals.

Glossar

STD
Sexual Transmitted Disease

HIV
Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Aids
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

Kaposi´s Sarcoma
A tumour characterized by the "abnormal" growth of small blood vessels under the skin. Research continues and many theories exist about its cause. One such theory is that it may be caused by a type of herpes virus which may be sexually transmitted.


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