Sunday, January 13, 2008

The State of HIV and AIDS in Uganda

When I get out to Uganda next month, I'll be working in the field of Public Health as an HIV/AIDS educator.  This week I've been doing a little research on the climate of the epidemic.

According to the excellent website HIV and AIDS in Uganda the country has been a success story when it comes to fighting the epidemic. The population of HIV positive adults dropped from 14% to just 5% in 2001.

The victory is generally accredited to the Ugandan government. Their awareness campaigns have treated AIDS not just a health issue, but a social one. It should also be noted that the U.S. government and the World Bank have donated hefty funds to the cause.

However, there is controversy. The HIV infection rate in Uganda is on the rise.  In 2007 , 6.7% of all adult Ugandans were infected with the virus.  Human Rights Watch has reported that this is due to an all Pro-Abstinence campaign.  Other groups have argued that that condom distribution is a Western way of dealing with the problem, not an African one. Frontline World's Daniele Anastasion has documented the current situation.

I also recommend watching the slightly longer rough cut of this segment. This version offers a far more objective take on the story.
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Thursday, January 10, 2008


I've heard back from the Peace Corps and I'm leaving for Uganda in a little less than a month. There's about a bijillion ideas and emotions going through my head and they're creating a traffic jam trying to get out onto the written page. I'm excited of course and shocked of course. From the research that I've done, Uganda only has dial-up Internet. I'm going to have to do my best to keep a blog out there, but the posts might come in waves if I'm stationed out in a rural area with no electricity (a strong possibility). In the meantime, I'm going to jam the web with as much multimedia as possible.

Why am I going into the Peace Corps? I like humanitarian work and I like traveling. It will also be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to do some documentary filmmaking, if I can pull it off. Those are the simple answers. Here's an essay I wrote for my application:

“Many people die at twenty-five, but aren’t buried until they are seventy-five,” Benjamin Franklin once wrote. At the time of this writing, I am twenty-five. It’s not that I’m a particularly dull person, but over the last couple of years I’ve started to pass the time in a comfortable kind of routine. It’s not a bad thing. Almost all of my friends my age are beginning to do it as well. We have all found a pattern in life that works for us. Pretty soon we’ll all be confirming our choices of lifestyles by settling down, starting families, and drifting happily ever after into old age.

It sounds pleasant, but I’m not satisfied. Not yet anyway. There’s still plenty I want to see and learn first. The only remedy is to keep growing, but how? My body’s not getting any taller and I’ve been digesting books at a steady rate for sometime now. My desire for self-cultivation is neither physical, nor is it intellectual. The only path left is to expand experientially. I must go out and meet the world.

Although the Earth has always retained the same distance, lately the globe has become a lot smaller. A conversation with America and some countries on the far side of the world once hardly existed as a whisper. Now the slightest news from those areas can stir up an uproar of voices here at home. The face of our country is changing as well. Residents of the most benign landscape of Americana are looking across to the next backyard and encountering an increasingly diverse blend of exotic new neighbors.

This should not come as a shock to us a people. Our present situation has been shaped by the same ideal that the United States was founded upon. To ignore our growing intimacy with other cultures would stunt our growth as a country.

Our world is shrinking by the minute. Given the choice, I’d rather expand than contract. America’s presence is everywhere in this world, whether one favors this or not, that’s how the situation stands. The question cannot be one of attendance or absence. Instead, we must ask ourselves how we should continue to develop relationships beyond our borders. Likewise, the world’s cultures make up America. We are a nation of immigrants. America’s ancestries represent every country on this planet. We are a democracy and we must continue to remember that everyone has a stake here.

I have come to the conclusion that to develop as an individual and as an American I must spend some time outside of this country, not as a tourist or a traveler, but as a global citizen. Only then will I have the insight to make judgments for myself and for the future United States that I will inherit when I return.

The program lasts for a little over two years. I'm going to be doing Public Health with a focus on HIV/AIDS work. To be honest, I feel kind of naive going into this whole experience. I don't really have a reference point to work from. My biggest fears, thus far, are how to deal with the inevitable culture shock and how to protect and use my video equipment. In the next month I'm going to use this blog as a bulletin board for any Uganda related info that I can find.

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