HIV/AIDS in Uganda
Sub-Saharan Africa is the world´s region most affected by HIV / AIDS.
In 2007 there were 22 Million infected people were living in this region. This is 67 percent of the infected people worldwide.
In Uganda about 2 Million people have been infected with HIV/AIDS since 1980. More than 800,000 people have already died from the sequelae. About 20 percent of Ugand´s children are orphans due to AIDS.
Actually, it can be said that each family is affected by the disease – either directly or indirectly.
Until 2004 the Ugandan policy regarding AIDS was said to be the most progressive on the whole continent. The total number of people infected is nowadays about 6 percent of the population, whilst it was 15 percent in 1992.
This result was reached by a targeted policy of elucidation and health care and by strengenthing women in society.
In 1987 President Yoweri Museveni who is governing Uganda up to now was the first African Head of State to frankly bring up the problem of Aids. Since there was no therapy and no money for condomes available he urged his men to faithfulness. In reference to cattle that should only graze on their home meadow he called it „Zero-grazing“. This agricultural metaphor has been well understood by the predominant rural population. While the rate of newly infected people was still at 15 percent at the beginning of the nineties, it dropped to 5 percent in 2001. Aside from that the mortality due to AIDS dropped from 110,000 people in 2001 to 78,000 in 2005.
The average life expectancy in Uganda is 54 years, about half of the population are living under the poverty line of one $ per day, childhood mortality is high and the access to medical care is insufficient.
In spite of this intensive awareness training there are 2 million orphans due to AIDS living in Uganda. There are already 12 million on the whole continent and an estimated 15,8 million children will have lost either their father, their mother or both parents in 2013.
While travelling some East African countries Mara found villages where the generation of mothers and fathers had nearly completely passed away. If the children were lucky they were living with their grandparents. Unfortunately, too many children are left to their own devices. They are living in child-headed households. To many a 10- or 11-year-old child this means to take care of their younger siblings – very often also younger cousins – without any outside support. Very often these orphans end up living in the street. What kind of future prospects these children may have and how high their estimated life expectancy might be can easily be imagined.
Girls are overexposed to violence and sexual assaults. This is why they need individual protection.
For all these reasons a special project where infected parents, mostly the mothers, are writing so called „Memory Books“ for their children has come into existance. At this, they are writing down the familiy history, their childhood memories or wishes for the future. They are also intensively delving into their coming death with their children. Family memories, values and traditions are being conveyed in form of stories, tales and songs.
The Swedish author Henning Mankell started this important project together with the Children´s Fund Plan International. He documented it in his book „Ich sterbe, aber die Erinnerung lebt“ (I am dying, but memory lives“, please see the hyperlind below). He is telling about his trips to Uganda, his communication with people suffering from AIDS and about the Memory Books.
Writing these Memory Books helps families coalescing. „I was glad to be able to tell my children about me. The worst thing for a child is to discover afterwards that the parents have hidden important informations from them“, Beatrice Were, Programme Coordinator of NACWOLA (National Community of Women Living with AIDS) explains.
Very often the Memory Books are the only treasure these children own. In the course of their lives the children will find answers to many questions in this book. What they looked like at the age of four years for example or some narrations from their childhood. A description of the parental home, their parents´ hopes and wishes for the child´s future or anything close to their heart. The book might also bear informations about friends and family, their parents´ philosophy of life, education and day-to-day work.
The Memory Book guides the children through their whole life and it bears significant memories for their own children and generations to come.
The situation of the AIDS orphans becomes particularly clear in the movie „Memory books – damit du mich nie vergisst“ (Memory books – so that you will never forget about me) by Christa Graf. She has picturised the project in a very feeling and impressive way.