The Pilgrims to this year’s Uganda Martyrs day had a unique opportunity to access HIV/AIDS services while they sought greater inspiration from their ancestors in faith, the Uganda Martyrs. TASO in partnership with Hardware World took part in the martyr’s day celebrations at Namugongo by providing HIV prevention public awareness education and free voluntary HIV counseling and testing services, reaching out to over 4550 individuals.
TASO’s participation in this year’s Uganda Martyrs day, the first time TASO was directly participating in this important day in the lives of the Christian Faithfull’s of this country, was inspired by a desire to reach out to many more people as TASO celebrates 25 years of great service. The theme for TASO’s Silver Jubilee is “Celebrating 25 Years of Positive Living – The Foundation of HIV Prevention, Care and Support”.
TASO set up a tent at the premises of Hardware World, Namugogo from 1st -3rd June 2012, where a select team of staff and volunteers from TASO Headquarters, Training Centre, TASO Mulago and TASO Entebbe provided the pilgrims with well tailored HIV prevention and awareness messages as well as information on access to care and support services, on individual, couple and small group basis. The over 4550 pilgrims who accessed this information were from a very wide range of backgrounds and from all parts of the country. Some of the visitors to the TASO tent were pilgrims from the neighboring countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) among others.
Out of the number of pilgrims who were reached by TASO, over 759 accessed HIV counseling and testing services, most of whom said they were accessing this service for the very first time. One pilgrim from Kotido said after receiving his HIV test results, “this is a special pilgrimage, I have received both spiritual and physical healing. I now know my HIV status and my faith will deliver the happiness I need. Thank you TASO for giving me this chance I had never got before”. There were many more individuals who had wanted to take an HIV test but the resources TASO had in Namugongo limited the numbers that received this service.
TASO greatly appreciates the support received from Uganda Episcopal Conference Secretariat, Hardware World and other partners who made it possible for TASO to reach out to the pilgrims. The positive response from the pilgrims was a humbling experience and TASO salutes all the pilgrims who took the initiative to have an HIV Test to know their status, an entry point to HIV Prevention, care and support.