SECTIONS

HIV medicine too bitter a pill for patients to swallow

By GRACE NAKATO

With Jamaican reggae artists Konshens and Alain in town, I expected the leading story on the most read tabloid in the country to have something to do with escapades featuring the who’s who of Kampala in compromising positions.

Instead, I was met with a disturbing headline screaming about a monster on the loose in the city — a HIV positive top official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The yet to be named and shamed official is currently being sued for Sh500,000 for conducting affairs of an internal nature on an unwilling participant. This guy is known to be HIV positive, and he has pimps who bring him young impressionable females eager to make a quick buck, especially when secondary schools are on vacation.

Shenanigans

The whistle blower is a young lady who comes from his village and knew him to be a generous man who would help her find a job as a housekeeper or cleaner. She happily accepted his kind offer of Sh500 for her weekly upkeep, and rides in his car as she went for interviews. She ignored the gatekeeper’s warning about him and his shenanigans thinking it was just jealousy and hot air, until the day he gave her chocolates laced with a narcotic.

She only remembers eating chocolates and thereafter waking up naked and in his bed. Her protests about the rape were met with an offer of Sh2,500 and advice to head to Mulago Hospital for post exposure prophylaxis that would prevent HIV infection.

There were complications with the medication and her internal organs have apparently been affected. She approached him again and he gave her Sh1million to access treatment. She is now suing him for Sh2million to help her maintain her medical visits and medication.

Promiscuity

Coincidentally, our government has declined to adopt the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (Truvada) as a prevention strategy. The Ministry of Health feels that at Sh3,064 before shipping, it is too expensive and will serve to promote promiscuity. Talk about burying heads in the sand.

The HIV prevalence rate in Uganda is currently at 7.1 per cent with approximately 150,000 new cases recorded daily. People no longer view HIV as a killer; it is now like diabetes requiring medication and change of diet. The ABC strategy (Abstain, Be Faithful, Use a Condom) is clearly not working.

We have taken “positive living” to the next level by refusing to allow any negativity to impact our social and sexual lives. This Ostrich approach has seen a local NGO come to our rescue in the semblance of a mobile HIV testing clinic that parks outside clubs and bars around town so that people can get tested.

Unlike the church and government, they understand that protection is the last thing on one’s mind when faced with a skimpily clad or intoxicated willing body. The couple can get tested and get busy depending on the results — pregnancy is scarier than HIV for the under 30 age group.

Drug resistance is also trending upwards because we are now toddlers who need sweet tasting meds. Some HIV positive patients have allegedly refused to take their medicine because it is too bitter to swallow.

And serikali, naturally, has been asked to purchase the sweeter more expensive version if they want people to take their medicine.