“The nurse who injected a child with HIV blood”: Media propaganda in Uganda

10 02 2014

You have probably seen or heard the story of “the nurse who injected a child with blood”. Yes? Well the nurse’s name is Namubiru. I saw this story on NTV Akawungeezi – the Luganda version at seven in the evening. See the video clip below.

My first reaction was irritation and deep inside I was wondering, how could a nurse who is over 50 (judging from her looks) be so heartless? At the same time I was reflecting on a post I wrote on the recent World AIDS Day – Are we “Getting to Zero”?: The HIV/AIDS blame game in Uganda.

This story really bothered me, the thought that a nurse could do such (to a child), made me sick in the stomach. Since then, I have followed the developments on this story. Once in a while I could catch a news byte to update myself on the case.

As I continued to follow the story I learned that there were actually two different narratives and both of them were victimizing the nurse. One said that “the nurse used the same syringe she had used on her self to give a child a shot yet she was aware that she is HIV positive” while the other said that “the nurse had injected the child with HIV positive blood”.

Mid last week I was listening to Sanyu FM’s news and the nurse’s case was mentioned again “the trial of the HIV positive nurse who injected a child with blood is set for Friday this week….. After the incident, the child was tested and found HIV positive yet the parents of the child are both HIV negative..”

The other day I met some people who are following this nurse’s case. They mentioned that they were from court and that the nurse had been denied bail. They asked whether I knew anything about that case.

I told them what I knew – basically the narrative that the media was spreading wildly; that the nurse injected a child with blood and infected her with HIV. Little did I know that this was far from the truth.

This is how I learned the other story, one that is not known to many. According to the people who have interacted with the nurse and the parents of the child, the nurse did not actually inject the child with blood.

What happened is that the child was on treatment and this nurse was supposed to administer a shot. Of course the nurse had a syringe in her hand. But we all know how much children fear pricking. So the child tried to resist and in the process the nurse pricked her (index) finger.

The mistake the nurse did is going ahead to use the syringe that had pricked her on the child – why she didn’t do this, you and I will probably never know but she (the nurse) insists that she didn’t have any ill intentions against the child.

The other thing I learned is, even though the nurse is HIV positive, apparently the child has been tested for HIV at least twice since the incident and she has tested negative on both occasions. If this is true, why does the Urban TV report – “Baby infected with HIV“?

What does this kind of reporting mean for the child in question. If the child is HIV negative, how will the narrative be reversed? Of course normally the media will rush into reporting without thinking about the damage this could cause to this child, her family or even the nurse who now seems to be a public enemy.

The media has succeeded in telling us just what we want to hear. Human nature is characterized with complaining, victimizing and well, hypocrisy; the media uses those same characteristics to tell us a story that we can identify with, a story that will win our hearts. The New Vision picture below shows a picture of the nurse, Namubiru looking terrified.terrified-Namubiru

Once the media has set the ground with all their propaganda, the nurse story becomes of no relevance, even if she tells her story, how many people will be interested in listening to it? And this is where the danger of a single story comes in.

In the end, media houses have nothing to lose. People enjoy reading these unbalance because they are easier to understand and easy for the journalists to compile in a short time.

Here are some of the headlines from some of the most popular media houses in Uganda.

Nurse Who Injected Child With HIV Blood Denied Bail – Red Pepper

Woman arrested for injecting baby with HIV infected blood – New Vision

How a nurse injected baby with HIV blood – The Observer

Baby infected with HIV – Urban TV

Lack of professionalism  or Ignorance?

When I see stories like this in the media only one thing comes to my mind – that after many decades of reporting on HIV/AIDS, journalists and editors have learned nothing, nothing at all. Many journalists have failed to understand that they have a role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS and that their role is not to spread the gospel of discrimination but to educate people through telling true and balanced stories.

“Our health reporting is really lacking, we need training to help us understand those scientific terms and jargon language….” I have seen journalists front this excuse on several occasions. Well, I am NOT buying that no more! We are talking about the basics here, if you cant tell a simple story as it is, without fabricating the facts, am afraid even training on health reporting won’t benefit you much.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 10.18.06 AM

When I look at how the media has portrayed this nurse’s story, I feel hopeless. I learned that this nurse has a daughter. With this kind of reporting, the nurse becomes a public enemy even before the public knows verdict.

However, I still have faith that when the media and journalism is dies (if its not dead already), there are still people who are willing to tell and hear the balanced story, not to victimize or discriminate but to seek justice and make the world a better place.

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Are we “Getting to Zero”?: The HIV/AIDS blame game in Uganda

30 11 2013

I was 7 years old when I lost my aunt. Prior to her death there was a rumor going around in the family that she was HIV positive. Most of these rumors were stigmatizing because everyone looked at an HIV victim as if they were dying tomorrow.  In the mid 90s the term HIV/AIDS was not popular. People preferred to use the local word “siliimu” which means slim. The term siliimu was used because of the way HIV turned victims into walking skeletons – literally.

But I guess the stigmatization was not as humiliating as the pain the patients went through in their final days of life. Many would be bed ridden for days/ months. Some (un)lucky ones would even stay ill on their death beds for years.

Before my aunt died she was ill for very many weeks. At the time all HIV patients received counseling services and a very specific kind of yellow corn flour from TASO. Apparently the yellow corn flour was rich in nutrients to help victims live longer.  Patients also got some medications such as Septrine and painkillers. At the time the ARVs were not accessible/ available.

In the beginning people welcomed TASO and the HIV patients were willing to go for services because TASO promised all patients confidentiality. This did not last long, people started spreading rumors “did you know, I found this person at TASO, they must be HIV positive”.

Like many other patients my aunt lived in denial. She never agreed to an HIV test even though my mom persuaded her to test saying that this is the only way she would get medication.

There was little knowledge and information about HIV, people knew that HIV had no cure and they knew that a patient would develop diarrhea, grow slim and eventually die. Not much was known about how its spreads, how to take care of patients extra. So mere suspecting that one is HIV positive meant that they would be stigmatized for the rest of their life.

The Baganda have an interesting culture where some one would public declare the cause of death at your funeral. When an HIV patient died normally small talks would go around during the funeral – “he/she died of siliimu”.

When I was 10 years old I lost my most favorite teacher ever. Her death was rather unusual, she was ill for only 2 or 3 days. She died of a headache but rumor had it that she had AIDS.

Eventually there were dozens of death recorded and all were attributed to HIV. Some of these deaths were very painful to my family and I because the people were very close to us.

Fast forward:

Today, HIV/AIDS continues to spread and kill thousands in Uganda. The stigma has significantly reduced. I think the stigma has reduced because access to ARVs has improved in the country, which means that people living with HIV/AIDS can live longer.

On November 3rd the Prime Minister of Uganda Amama Mbabazi cited increased access to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs as one of the causes for disheartening complacency that has seen a spike in new HIV infections countrywide.

When the Prime Minister makes such remarks I wonder whether the government’s commitment to “Get to Zero” (zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related death) still stands. Mbabazi might have a point but his statement is rather demeaning to the many HIV/AIDS patients and stakeholders who are making sure that patients get access to the much needed ARVs.

One the major weaknesses in the fight against HIV/AIDS is government failure to integrate sexual and reproductive health education into the national syllabi right from primary to advanced levels of education. There is a lot of secrecy when it comes to sex. Many young boys and girls who are sexually active resort to local tabloids. Newspapers, television and Internet for those who have access to educate themselves about sex and reproductive health.

But what does this mean for many rural youth who drop out of school, don’t have access to this information? Well, of course this means that they are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. For me this feels like we are taking 1-step forward and 2 steps backward in the fight against HIV.

Uganda was once a champion on the African continent in the fight against HIV. Today, statistics show that many African countries are dealing with the epidemic much better than us. What happened? Perhaps our leaders got so excited because their initial efforts registered a lot of success and since they became complacent?

Is this a time to play the blame game? Perhaps NOT! That’s why I am not going to talk about the woes in the maternal health sector and government’s failure to prioritize health in the national budget.

Tomorrow is the International World AIDS Day. For me this day brings back a lot of painful memories but most importantly it reminds me that “Getting to Zero” is a shared responsibility. It is going to require (renewed) commitment, less blaming and more doing. And I hope that our government will actually champion this struggle and make it a priority.





The big shift in the flow of knowledge – From Developing Countries to the “Developed Countries”

11 04 2012

Pupils in Kitgum, Northern Uganda

Uganda before me

So Great Britain colonized Uganda for 66 years (from 1896 to 1962). In 1962 Uganda got her independence and since then Uganda has been led by Ugandan presidents. Somewhere in between 1962 and 1986 there were quite a number of civil wars and military coups in Uganda.

In 1987 I was born, was a few months after the end of the war which saw the incumbent president of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni over throw Idi Amin.  My mother told me a lot of stories about the 1986 coup and how my family had to move places running away from war.

The real story

But that is not the real story. The real story is that even though developing countries have over the years looked up to the so called “developed countries” as the sources of knowledge, pace and trend makers, in reality there has been a huge backward-shift in knowledge and information sharing patterns. Today we are witnessing more knowledge gaps in the developed countries. We are seeing outstanding personalities originally from the developing countries rising on to the international scene.

Rewind

Unfortunately on many of my international trips people still ask me about Idi Amin – one of my recent encounters was in South Africa in 2010 when a stranger from Zimbabwe read off my conference tag that I was from Uganda. He posed a bit before he asked me – so, you are from Uganda? The land of Idi Amin.

Usually I want to tell people that I never even knew him (Idi Amin) – even though I learnt a lot about him in School. I was born a year after the fall of his regime and even though he was the president of Uganda at some point, his legacy doesn’t represent the Uganda/ Ugandans of today. But then again how much can you teach a person whose knowledge about your country is only until 1986?

Earlier I watched this “A Dam Relief begins in May 2012 – Uganda’s Truth will follow” video and at some point a bunch of Americans are asked what they know about Uganda or even whether they have considered coming to Uganda on holiday – the lady in the video says “Uganda has never actually appeared to me as a place for holiday”!

The Uganda I live in

This is when I want to scream that Uganda is actually the Pearl of Africa, home to the Source of the Nile, the famous snow capped Mountain Rwenzori, Lake Bunyonyi the second deepest lake in Africa, home of various and unique cultures. That Uganda flourishes with wild life..holds the most potential in uncovered wild life.. That Uganda is a peaceful country and full of life.

More Knowledge gaps

It is quite interesting and rather DEPRESSING every time I learn that people in the so called developed countries know so little about Uganda and other developing countries at large. I watched the above video just a few minutes ago and all I see is a huge imbalance in knowledge.

On my international travels people ask me “where did you learn to speak English? Its quite interesting to hear that you can speak so well!” So I explain how English is my official language extra. Apart from speaking English so well, I also know a lot about North America, parts of Europe, Asia and of course lots about Africa – the cultures, economic activities or geography of these regions. This is because my (Uganda’s) education system makes it mandatory for me to learn about the world at different levels through my education.

When I reflect on all this ignorance I appreciate that my education system opens boarders and teaches me about the parts of the world which as a child or student I never even imagined I would visit in my life. As I speak, I have been blessed to see different countries across Africa, parts of North America, Asia and spent a couple of hours in Middle East.

However, I am very much concerned and disappointed when I learn that the rest of the world learns almost nothing about my country, culture extra.

The new era of human interaction

Thank God for the social media and interactive social networks! People can now share information and learn about cultures in very interactive ways. But then again, this opportunity is a take or leave for many of the young teenagers who should learn about as much about the world they live in.

Question remains: Is this shift in the knowledge sharing patterns going to be effective if the countries in the west do not make it mandatory for the children to learn about the east the same way my education system does?

 





Women, Water and the Economy

5 02 2011

Looking at the series of challenges affecting the people in Africa, one would say that the issue of women empowerment and women’s rights is not very important. If you asked me, I would say, “Women’s empowerment” should be the core of each and every development oriented project. Why? When women are empowered, the economy does not remain the same. They better the livelihood in their homes and as well as their personal lives. Improved income for women means better nutrition/ feeding in homes, improved access to education for the children and general livelihood. In other wards women invest more in education, nutrition, health and general livelihood.

The role of fetching water in the African Traditional Society was assigned to the women and children. Up to the present day, women and children still carry this burden along while the men continue to generate income from water sources. In cities and on the country side of many developing countries you will see women and children in small and big groups carrying jerrycans of water on their heads. Access to water in many developing countries remains a very big challenge – dirty water sources, long distances to and from water sources (usually up to 4 kilometers).

What does this mean for these women and children?

The burden of having to fetch water means that the women and children often have to fore-go other activities – for the women, they end up having limited time to grow food and limited participation in entrepreneurship. The children on the other hand, end up missing out on education and playing. This has further widened the income disparities between men and women. No wonder the economies in developing countries have not registered much development.

The African Traditional Society also regarded women as the food growers. The women and their children were given the task of ensuring food security in their homes. However, the ownership of family plots was always solely reserved by the men. This means that the men had more influence over what is grown on these plots of land. In the same way, the men would take ownership of the agricultural produce. This is still the case in many developing countries.

So, what can be done?

Women should be empowered! But how can the women be empowered in the “modern times”. Many women missed out on the opportunity to go to school. However, this is not a time to regret on the mistakes that we cant take back. This is a time to effect change, a time for a new beginning of a era where Women and Men are equal.

Every tool can help, every project can cause impact. Technology, Football, Music, Art, Education,  Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, to mention but a few have been very key tools in women empowerment.

Whats your contribution towards women empowerment?

The struggle continues…





Youth, Rural Development and ICT: ARDYIS Essay Contest Extended to 15 August 2010!

26 07 2010

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in collaboration with FARA, Yam-Pukri, CAFAN, AYF, ANAFE, PAFPNET, has recently launched an essay writing contest on “Youth and ICTs in Agriculture and Rural Development”.

Youth finding solutions to challenges in agriculture and rural development using ICT !

The deadline to submit is extended to 15 August 2010.
The essay contest is open to young people aged 18 – 25 years old, from urban or rural areas of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific countries. Win up to 1,500 Euros, make your voice heard and improve your capacity by submitting your essay today!

Interested? : Read Details here:- http://ardyis.cta.int/en/activities/awards/item/48-awards/48-awards





What’s Next: The Digital Divide and the Youth

14 07 2010

Recently I contributed to “What’s Next” an e-book that features 25 Bib Ideas from Gen-Yers Under 25. My25 Big Ideas from Gen-Yers Under 25 article was mainly on the topic “The Digital Divide and the Youth”.

I could easily have my full article published on my personal blog but then, that means that you wont be able to read the other 24 Big Ideas. Thats why I am only providing two paragraphs such that you can follow the link to take a look at the full book.

Today, the world is referred to as a “Global Village”. The communities all around the world are transforming from being economic based to information based. This is because Information and Telecommunication Technologies have brought many exciting opportunities worth exploring in areas of social, political and economic development.

These ICT tools are becoming more essential in everyday life. This is because almost everyone in the needs to communicate or access information.

What we need to create is a platform where the youth can interact, discuss and share ideas about the grand challenges threatening the future.

 READ MORE Here – My article is on Slide 27 and 28

Comments and feed back would be nice.. 😉





Ssozi Javie wins 4th place in eLearning Africa photo competition

1 07 2010
4th place  Camera Phone – Keeping Distant Families in Touch! (Uganda)

In this photo, my mother (red dress) is showing

relatives we were visiting in their distant village

a video of my nieces and nephew on her mobile

phone; she had recorded it in our home town a few

days earlier. It served as visual documentation for

her explanation of how the children have grown and

how they look now. Video is a very powerful tool in

Uganda, along with mobile phones, which have become

a vital device. However, not everyone can afford even a

basic mobile phone, let alone a sophisticated one.

Photographer: Ssozi Javie

Follow link to see TOP 10 winners and details about the competition:

How ICTs Are Changing the Way We Live –
The eLearning Africa 2010 Photo Competition

Communicating with friends from all over the world, putting business ideas into practice via the Internet, learning any time and any place – Information and Communication Technologies (ICTS) have permanently changed lives all over the planet.

What does this mean for the African continent? The aim of the photo competition was to learn more about how mobile phones, the Internet, computers and the audiovisual media have changed lives in Africa.
More than 100 images were submitted to the competition.