MASAKA. It is ten years since Allen Nakato, not real names lost her husband to HIV/Aids related diseases.
But she always refers to his death as suicidal.
Reason? Because since the invention of Anti-retroviral drugs, HIV is no longer a death sentence. But much as he knew they were HIV positive, Nakato’s husband vehemently refused to enroll on treatment .
In contrast, Allen took courage, accepted the sour fate and started taking ARVs , adhered to them , and as she speaks, her viral load is undetectable!
The 33 -year -old widow even got married to another man with whom she bore an HIV free baby, thanks to Elimination- of- Mother- to -Child Transmission (EMCT)
Nakato’s husband adds a figure to the huge list of men who prematurely succumb to HIV/Aids related diseases because of their low uptake of test, treatment, and adherence to drugs.
At a micro level , a look at Kitovu Mobile’s 2018 ARV adherence data,150 adult women had good adherence compared to the 80 men. This is what makes women heroes when it comes to the fight against HIV ,and indeed this makes it worth for them to celebrate March 8 every year as International Women’s Day .
This is also reflected in low Viral Load Suppression (VLS) prevalence. VLS is when an HIV positive person’s virus is not detected and this stems from good drug adherence.
Nationally, the prevalence of VLS among all HIV-positive adults aged 15 to 64 in Uganda is 59.6 percent: 62.9 percent among females and 53.6 percent among males ,as indicated in the Uganda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA), a household-based national survey, that was conducted from August 2016 to March 2017 to assess the progress of Uganda’s national HIV response.
UPHIA offered household-based HIV counseling and testing.
The ill fate of men’s low uptake is seen in high HIV/AID mortalities, where more men succumb to HIV related deaths compared to women as disclosed by Uganda Aids Commission, despite HIV prevalence is higher among the latter.
This makes Uganda lose productive labour force, of which is not easily replaced like medical doctors.
As Dr Steven Watiti, an HIV/Aids activist noted, it hurts seeing a doctor succumbing to Aids because he refused to take test, or take drugs consistently, yet he knows that the country has chronic shortage of doctors.
It also quickens families’ vulnerability, after death of bread winners. This robs children of their right to education and other basic needs.
Some orphans are fortunate that Kitovu Mobile, provides school fees and make them realise their dreams, but majority have their dreams shuttered at a tender age , storming streets for survival as the girls choose to engage in commercial sex and early marriages which exposes them to HIV risks.
Thus, as we mark and commemorate International Women’s Day, men need to celebrate them(women) for pretty a lot of things, but in the fight against HIV , it should be their high uptake of HIV prevention, care, and treatment services.
However, celebrating women is not enough, but to emulate them so as to fight a winnable battle against HIV/Aids ,a scourge bruising our social and economic circles for nearly four decades now.
Let us test for HIV as early and regularly as possible other than shunning it in the guise of being busy and instead choose to depend on our spouses’ results.
If negative, we, too, consider ourselves negative; forgetting scenarios of HIV discordant couples.
According to World Health Organisation, discordant couples are those where one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not, where a couple is defined as two persons in an ongoing sexual relationship and each of these persons is referred to as a “partner” in the relationship.
So, without testing one cannot know his HIV status so as to start drugs or continue protecting himself, depending on the results.
“Happy Women’s Day 2019”