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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Evelyn Kiapi Matsamura
KAMPALA, Jul 29 2003 (IPS) - "Whenever I appear on the stage and confess that I have never had sex in my life, my goodness, people laugh and fall on their knees. Even someone, who initially appeared composed, just bursts out laughing," says 26-year-old Ugandan musician, Richard Kaweesa, who is urging youth to abstain from sex before marriage.
"I have never had sex. When I was 13, I vowed that I would abstain until I got married," he says.
"It was a great challenge for me. That time I lost my voice. I could not sing. I really wanted to become a musician. And I said ‘God, if you give my voice back, I will never do it until I get married’," he recalls.
Kaweesa, a celebrated musician, is now fulfilling that vow. He has spent the last two years trying to save the lives of young people through HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns. Today he stands as a role model, confessing that abstinence until marriage is the safest way to avoid the disease.
"There is no shame in it. I have done it and it works for me," he says.
Kaweesa, together with other local musicians, has visited schools, colleges and universities, putting up concerts and reminding the youth that they hold the key to their safety and future.
With the help of the ministry of health, they tour schools, singing, entertaining as well as educating the students about their value, abstinence and protection.
IPS caught up with him Jul. 23, when he and his group ‘M-Community’ were preparing to travel to Rakai, southern Uganda, where the country’s first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in 1982.
"We are going to try and educate, through talks and entertainment, how and why the issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) should be treated as well as what the implications could be," he said.
When U.S. President George W. Bush visited Uganda on Jul. 11 he commended the role played by such groups in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.
"Their approach has reduced the HIV infection rate to 5 percent in this country, the most dramatic decline in the world. For many in Uganda, the value of this achievement is beyond measure. Men and women are gaining years of life. More Ugandan children are growing up with mothers and fathers, and this country is reclaiming its future. Life by life, village by village, Uganda is showing that AIDS can be defeated across Africa," he said.
Nearly 30 million people in Africa are living with HIV/AIDS, including three million children under the age of 15. More than four million people require immediate drug treatment, but just one percent of them are receiving the medicine they require.
Over the next five years, Bush said the United States will spend 15 billion U.S. dollars to fight AIDS around the world, with special focus on the continent of Africa.
‘M-Community’, with its slogan, "Let’s Talk About it Freely", consists of leading Ugandan artistes like Kaweesa, Emperor Orlando, Bebe Cool, Zuena, Juliana, Jose Chameleone and Rachael Magoola.
"Artistes have not been so much at the forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS even when their music promotes much of what they express," Kaweesa says.
His goal is reach as many young people as possible. "Some of the young people don’t value themselves. Even if you tell them to use a condom or to have safe sex, they may not. Some still argue that when you use a condom, the pleasure is cut. It is obvious that they are thinking of pleasure before their dreams. That means they do not even have dreams to live for," he says.
"You need to have dreams and values to live for," Kaweesa says.
"Value does not come from the kind of clothes you wear, the car you drive or the house you stay in. Even your background, that’s not your value. Your intrinsic value comes from your usefulness, and to be useful, there must be a need," he says.
Kaweesa regrets that there is a general fatigue about HIV/AIDS issues. "The youth are not listening to the ‘dry’ messages anymore. They no longer take the entire message seriously. But the use of entertainment gets the message through," he says.
But just as Kaweesa feels he has a role to play in saving lives, he too faces challenges.
"It’s tough being a musician. You are prone to temptations, with all these girls coming after you. They want to know you, where your hotel room is … it’s up to you," he says.
"That is why I say you have a choice. People have the ability to choose. We are not victims of our environment. The environment is a victim of the choices we make. That is why we are able to change things. For example, a mobile phone was not a phone until we decided that it must be one," he says.
"We can take charge of situations. That is why we are human beings. We have the ability to respond by choice, and that is responsibility," he told students at Rakai Teachers Training College.
Some of the students wept at the messages that the musicians delivered. For a community that has lost so many to HIV/AIDS, messages like those were bound to create emotions.
Tears rolled down the cheeks of one teacher as Kaweesa sang for the students.
"There are problems we create for ourselves by the decisions we make. You get caught up in a maze of things that you can’t even be happy," Kaweesa says.
"Sometimes you complicate your life, thinking you are gaining happiness when you are actually taking it away from yourself. Just choose a simple life. Be with those who appreciate you for what you are," he says.
Right now, the most important choice for Kaweesa is to get married. He has been seeing someone for one-and-a-half years. "I want to cross that line," he says.
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