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Why World Aids Day should be declared a public holiday

Public holidays, I believe, are meant to promote a sense of nationhood, share observance of a country’s historic landmarks like independence, sacrifices in pivotal wars, lives and roles of citizens, among others.

On every 26th day of January, Uganda celebrates the National Resistance Movement (NRM) liberation day. This was the day in 1986 when the National Resistance Army (NRA) overthrew a government that was allegedly corrupt and practiced significant vote fraud to remain in power.

It was declared a public holiday to celebrate the victory registered by the NRA. Ironically, some of the war heroes that survived bullets succumbed to Aids that was preconceived to be witchcraft at the time.

I don’t know whether the president has an advisor on public holidays, but I would like to propose that the World Aids Day should be declared a public holiday because the fight against HIV/Aids is a pivotal war.

HIV/Aids is an armless rebel that respects no man. It doesn’t care what tribe, colour, height, size, rank, creed or the name you call God. It doesn’t discriminate. We are all vulnerable to it unless we take heed to respective advice.  

Uganda is known worldwide for jumpstarting the fight against HIV/Aids in the early 1990s with President Museveni at the forefront. Heroes like Philly Bongole Lutaaya that boldly declared their status faced the razor-cutting stigma, but soldiered on till death.

If we can have a public holiday to celebrate a hero like Archbishop Janan Luwum, I believe it would be fair enough to celebrate citizens like Philly Bongole Lutaaya, DJ Berry, Livingstone Kasozi, Aloysius Joy Matovu, Rev Gideon Bainomugisha and Barbara Kemigisa, among others that have openly declared their HIV status. It takes a lot of guts to share your status especially with the immense stigma that surrounds this pandemic.

The Ministry of Health estimated that by the end of 2015, about 1.46 million people in Uganda would be living with HIV. Politics being a game of numbers, I guess the politicians need to pay attention to these numbers.

Unfortunately, even with ARVs, people are recklessly consuming each other in the act of love without fear of this deadly virus. Many people have never seen what an ARV tablet looks like, let alone the tin.

If we only knew the challenges people living positively with HIV go through taking medication, the side effects, psychological torture and stigma, we wouldn’t be living recklessly.

You don’t have to be infected to feel the pain of HIV/Aids. It is now 29 years since HIV/Aids claimed my father’s life. With such experience of being an orphan, I wouldn’t want to see any other child walk down this path.

Gikwateko public holiday, Mr President!

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