By Jannet Akello
The first manifestations of HIV/AIDS in Uganda and in Lango in particular was mind-blowing.
Personally, in our early days of primary school life with my younger sister and a class friend, on our way back from school, we decided to pass by and visit our classmate at their home and also to drink water.
On arrival, I and my sister found our grand mother and her group of friends had gone to pray and visit our classmate’s sick father. Not knowing his health condition, we were told to enter and greet the bedridden old man. He extended his hand to greet us. Unfortunately, he had not put on a shirt and his ribs were out.
He was looking miserable and more of a skeleton when our eyes landed on him. Could the two little visitors ever greet again? We took off like we were competing in a 100m race; running for three kilometres nonstop up to home. This memory never left me and my sister until late.
In Lango and the world over, AIDS made news, caused total panic; some of us hid under the beds, fearing death. Anyone suspected to be positive was highly stigmatized, isolated, and talked about. Others went ahead to count victims of the entire village who had AIDS and for sure we would see death robbing us every time.
We cried, prayed and wished we were not born. We feared to shake hands with people, we absconded falling in love that time, and we didn’t know how to handle it and most people said it was “just a matter of time before AIDS wiped out the whole world”. But as I talk now, AIDS is “no longer on top of the list of most dangerous diseases”.
Massive awareness and sensitizations really helped open people’s eyes. In Uganda, we gave AIDS names; in Lango alone people named it “cilim”, “jonyo” and others call it “olilimo”, etc. I must say we have almost defeated AIDs and we will.
I think what we should now know is that HIV/AIDS is in its limited or undetectable amount if we stick to basic disciplines, testing, drugs adherence, and self-management. And if you stick to ending HIV/AIDS transmission then we will be good to go.
So, to me, naming coronavirus with any local name will equally help local people in villages across Lango sub-region or any part of Uganda to pass the information easily, like how we got a local name for HIV/AIDS.
This will help our illiterate fathers and mothers; sisters and brothers in villages to understand coronavirus, like they know AIDs with no education background.
For instance, myself the old mothers have decided to call me “Ajeni wa” from “Imat Janet Akello Omaraorec Owec Anyen” pi Alebtong district 2021 to 2036.
So, what can I do other than to receive the love that is sufficient enough from them? We also gave the President, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta a simple name of “Owera” and this is what makes him very popular since everyone is able to pronounce.
Finally, we need to identify new strategies in combating this deadly virus, and we can only do so if we use similar approaches against AIDS. The coronavirus is “curable” but “stubborn”. Let’s follow guidelines and directives issued by our President and the Ministry of Health.
To the farmers in Uganda, especially my farmers from Alebtong district, we need not sit home because there’s a lockdown. Let’s engage in some agricultural activities; small or big so we are able to defeat famine tomorrow.
For God and my Country.
The writer is a farmer and 2021 aspirant for Alebtong District Woman Member of Parliament.