KAMPALA, UGANDA – Over the last few years, we’ve heard that HIV infection rates have been dropping. And it’s true in a lot of places, but not in Uganda. There, the number has actually gone up from 6.4 percent infected in 2005 to 7.3 percent today.
So what’s a Ugandan leader to do? If you’re President Yoweri Museveni, you throw privacy to the wind and put your business in the streets. That’s what he did this week when he and his wife had public HIV tests done, inviting the country’s leading daily newspaper, New Vision, to take photos. Call it “leading by example.”
“I think it sends a very powerful message that the discrimination and stigma that individuals with HIV face is no longer a reason not to go out and get tested,” says Kelly Young, CEO of AIDS Foundation Houston.
Young points out Uganda is not the only place where HIV is on the rise, revealing “Houston has one of the fastest growing HIV increases in the nation. We’re still ranked between 10 and 12 in the nation in terms of new HIV infections and those affected by HIV.”
That’s a top 10 list no one wants be on! So why’s it so bad here? Young explains, “In the south, what you see is a lot people who are engaging in risky behaviors but then are not engaging in testing or treatment.” Just stupid! But no judgment here — if you’re out and proud, or on the “down low,” or have ever had sex with someone (maybe even your spouse) you think might be, then get tested. Doing it’s kinda scary, but not doing it could kill you.
“You can literally not have any symptomology or any indication that you’re that sick and yet you have it, ” says Young, “but if you knew that you have HIV early on, you can start your medical treatment early enough that you never get sick — that you really literally function as though you don’t have HIV … People live with it and they have their whole lives that they get to enjoy and have the life they want.”
That’s what we’re all going for, right? So get over the stigma and get an HIV test. It doesn’t take long, and doing it might just save your life.