By John Agaba
Parents have been asked to start discussing HIV/Aids with their children, in yet another strategy in the fight against the epidemic.
Statistics show that HIV prevalence stands at 7.1% and at 2.8% among women and men aged 20 to 24 years respectively.
But refocusing the HIV campaign to also include parents taking the mantle of equipping their children with “basic life skills” on how they can avoid contracting the deadly virus in their hands, can come in handy to avert the 400 new HIV infections Uganda registers every day.
Olivia Wamala, an administrator at The Gideon Anti-Aids Foundation (GAAF), stressed that parents have a role to play in this ‘fight to the death’ against HIV.
“You are the parent. You cannot abandon this role of teaching your children the dangers of early sex,” Wamala said.
“Many parents don't discuss HIV. They fear that when they start talking about HIV, the children will ask them more questions than they are prepared to answer. But you should open up and be free with your children. Because you are not teaching them, someone else is. And they are teaching them what is wrong. The reason we have youth as young as 13 years engaging in sex,” Wamala said.
This was during the GAAF 3rd youth festival at Kitebi Primary School in Lubaga Division, Kampal.
Alice Kyomuhendo, a counselor, said parents need to tell their daughters what it means when they get their first period. “They need to tell them now that they are ‘women’, boys and men will start hovering; and the girls should be prepared for this.”
“Many times we assume the children will learn. They start engaging in sex. They are not protected. And when they get problems, they cannot even open up to you,” Kyomuhendo said.
“There are a lot of youth abusing drugs, alcohol, and sex because there is a big gap between parents and their children,” she added.
According to the 2011 Uganda Aids Indicator Survey, on average, girls have their first sexual debut at 17 and boys at 18. But this wouldn’t be the case if parents were really involved, Kyomuhendo said.
We need to engage in acts that show that HIV/Aids is real and that it is still with us, Francis Kavulu, the councilor Kabowa Parish in Lubaga Division, said. “Parents we have to be role models. We need to be exemplary to our children.”
Kavulu said HIV/Aids was “defeating us” because we are not implementing what we already know (interventions against the disease).
“The reason we are losing the fight against HIV is because we don’t practice what we know. We are aware how the virus moves. We are aware how it can be prevented. We are aware of the importance of testing and counseling in the fight against HIV. But how many of us have tested for HIV in the last six months? The only thing we do is go to the bar, then after two beers, start looking for women. We are not role models to our children. If you go to any night club and see what happens. You find 50-year-olds with girls fit to be their daughters,” said the counselor who has also worked for the Aids Healthcare Foundation.
The annual festival which started at 9:00 am, and was organized by the GAAF, attracted about 200 school children, and the message centered on abstinence as the best HIV prevention strategy among this group.
Various drama groups from the different schools in attendance presented HIV/Aids-related skits, with abstinence the main message.
His Royal Highness Apollo Sansa Kabumbuli II the Kamuswaga of Kooki, who was the guest of honor, said “we need to eliminate fear and stigma among persons living with HIV.”