My name is Kushaba Moses Mworeko a 31 year old Ugandan.
It was my pleasure commemorating World AIDS Day 2010 with fabulous people who are very much concerned with this epidemic that has claimed millions and millions of people.
As an oldest child of the six children, I became the caretaker of the family at age 15 after losing my sister and my parents (Johosophat and Jovia Natukunda Mworeko) of HIV/AIDS in 1989, October 1992 and April 1995, respectively. These have become my heroes and I feel so proud talking about them while trying to save a few people. In 1989 and early 1990s the AIDS epidemic was rampant in the country because public awareness was low and because the health care system was not well equipped to deal with the spread of HIV/AIDS. This epidemic had caught like bush fire and had already registered devastating effects throughout Uganda. Death, death, and death was the order of the day. For instance, in the Rakai District, South Western Uganda, 70% of the adult population had vanished because of HIV/AIDS, leaving behind helpless orphans. But the cause of their deaths remained a mystery because many thought the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS were the result of spells from African witchcraft (juju). Photo by Todd Franson, Metro Weekly
I remember a witchdoctor coming home to save my sister but in vain. There was a musician, Philly Bongole Lutaaya who was already infected with the virus and decided to save his countrymen and future generation. At that time, in Uganda, the truth about the disease was concealed because the word SEX had to be mentioned which is a TABOO in our culture. But amidst discrimination and rejection, Lutaaya was determined to unveil and reveal the Truth that “AIDS was the killer and it was spread through SEX, and blood contact.”
The government came up with an awareness and education campaign on the epidemic with campaign messages from Philly Lutaaya’s music.
The following are some educational lyrics from his AIDS awareness song and album, “Alone”:
Today it’s me
Tomorrow someone else
It’s you and me
We’ve got to stand up and fight
We’ll take a light in the fight against AIDS
Let’s come on out
Let’s stand together, fight AIDS
In times of joy, in times of sorrow
Let’s take a stand and fight on to the end
With open hearts, let’s stand up and speak out to the world
We’ll save some lives, save the children of the world.
The government felt it was wise having these campaigns start in schools through music, dance and drama and then to families. I was so very involved in this awareness campaign and what hurt me most was that my family became the first victim. At first I didn’t believe it, but …I came to realize it as years went by when my other relatives and friends died.
I am deeply frustrated by what is going on in my country. With the Anti-homosexuality bill 2009 which seeks to introduce life in prison or the the death penalty for acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and to criminalize the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality (giving it seven years in prison). And if the offender is a business or a non-governmental organization, its certificate of registration will be cancelled on conviction. Other provisions are; death for gays that are HIV positive and up to 3 years in prison for failure to report a homosexual. In other words, this bill makes everybody a potential criminal.
Thank you to John Cunningham, the Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, who invited me to attend World AIDS Day 2010 and who honored me on that day. I believe that the more we together come forward and talk about it, the stronger we become in working out the its remedies.
I like Dr. George Ayala of MSMGF who said that “Every person deserves the right to fair treatment and freedom from persecution. The more we learn about HIV, the more we see that working to eradicate stigma, discrimination, and violence is essential to securing the right to health for MSM.
I hope whoever reads this will be touched and realize that HIV/AIDS is real and something needs to be done about it.
Here is the original message I sent to John the night before World AIDS Day,
Tomorrow December 1, is WAD. This day usually reminds me of Important people that I have lost to this epidemic. My parents and sibling (Dad, Mom, and Sister)- 1989, 1992 & 1995 respectively, my Uncles, Aunties, cousins and friends.
Everyone of us is either infected or affected. World AIDS Day is important for reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there is a lot still to be done.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. During 2009 some 2.6 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 1.8 million people died from AIDS.
So, my appeal to you is, to stand with me tomorrow as we remember the loved ones we have lost and comfort the ones that are infected and continue to raise awareness on this epidemic.
Thank you so very much.