How music is creating awareness about HIV/AIDS in Uganda
A drone shot of the concert goers that turned up for the HIV/AIDS awareness concert in Kabale
It is mid morning at Kabale Municipal Stadium and the queues of people seeking for HIV/AIDS services grows at the dominantly rural district’s stadium which is 420 kilometres (260 miles) by road, southwest of Kampala- the capital city of Uganda.
The locals have come to attend Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU)’s #iKnowKati HIV/AIDS awareness concert that kicks off with free HIV/AIDS services like testing and counseling before the edutainment session with Uganda’s top concerts in the district.
In 2014, Kabale was ranked among the 13 high risk HIV/AIDS affected district s with the prevalence rates standing at 5.9%. The most affected towns in the district are Katuna town council, Muhanga Town Council and Kabale Municipality where there is a high rate at which HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly due to issues like lack of information on HIV, unprotected commercial sex trade.
The artists lined up, some of the household names in Uganda’s music industry like Geosteady, Mun*G, Allan Toniks, Nutty Neithan and Naava Grey are joined by guest artists from Denver, Nashville and Tennessee to edutain the concert goers after a full day of HIV testing and counseling where over 1000 locals have tested at the Kabale Municipal Stadium.
From L-R Uganda's top artists (Mun*G, Martha Smallz, Nutty Neithan, Navio, Naava Grey and Geosteady) with RAHU Team Leader Humphrey (in red checked shirt) during a recent shoot of an upcoming video
“I want to thank all young people who courageously tested for HIV earlier today and got to know their status. Always make sure that you’re making the right decisions in everything that you do. Always use a condom every time you’re going to have sex.” Geosteady concludes.
Reach A Hand Uganda and the use of music to create behavior change impact
For close to 5 years now, RAHU has been using music under its Musical Project, to bring awareness to sexual reproductive health challenges like HIV/AIDS affecting young people in Uganda.
Songs like Your Ways, If its Not on it's Not Safe and now Get Up Speak Out, that have been produced by Reach A Hand Uganda on different issues like HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and child marriages have been played on Uganda’s top radio stations and Television stations.
Music being an important part of popular culture amongst young people therefore becomes a great platform for discussions on social behavior change issues. Concerts also become particularly effective because artists like Geosteady have the opportunity to address large crowds. For such HIV and other SRHR messages to take root, they must be accepted by large numbers of youth, and individuals are more likely to accept these messages if their peers do.
“International festivals like the Global Citizen Festival have used music as an avenue to create awareness about pressing social issues like poverty and the global goals. RAHU believes a model like that create awareness about HIV/AIDS in Uganda through our iKnow campaign.” Humphrey Nabimanya, the Team Leader of RAHU says.
The iKnow Campaign is a RAHU project that seeks to contribute towards achieving the 90-90-90 target by 2020 through reaching out to in and out of school young people and equipping them with accurate information on HIV/AIDS and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights to encouraging them to test and know their HIV status. The iKnow campaign also occasionally involves the public and private sector in the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.
Even when Uganda is considered the youth capital of the world, young people face a lot of reproductive health challenges. For example, The 2014 Uganda HIV and AIDS Country Progress Report by Uganda AIDS Commission states that people living in urban areas are more likely to be HIV positive than those in rural areas with 8.7% of these being positive compared to 7.0% of their rural counterparts. Furthermore, in the age bracket of 25-29 years, only 38.6% have comprehensive knowledge about HIV/AIDS whereas only 38.9% have the same comprehensive knowledge in the 30-39 year old bracket.
One of the local artists performing during the HIV/AIDS awareness concert in Kabale
These statistics whether rural or urban, have resulted from factors such as pressure from peers to appear “cool” by having multiple sexual partners, struggle to maintain particular lifestyles, stigma from the community upon revelation of one’s positive status in addition to societal and cultural norms that associate having HIV/AIDS with promiscuity and recklessness, engaging in risky sexual behavior and hazardous activities such as unrestrained alcohol and drug consumption.
From November 26th- December 1st (World AIDS Day), RAHU will conduct a series of HIV/AIDS awareness activities dubbed One Week to December, as a climax to the iKnow Concerts, much like the one held in kabale. Mbarara District in Western Uganda will be the venue for activities including a marathon, a corporate league where different corporate organizations will engage in football competitions as well as the HIV/AIDS awareness concert, where a star-studded music line up willcrown up the activities.
Should we wait for World AIDS Day to start creating awareness about the epidemic? The answer is NO! Let’s start communicating these messages way earlier. If we can inform young people about HIV/AIDS throughout the year, they will understand the topic better, and World AIDS Day will become a celebration of our victory, rather than another day to hold a tired discussion on how to conquer the scourge.