When Aisha Kakyama discovered she was pregnant with her second child, she was so distraught she considered having an abortion – a procedure that is illegal in Uganda.
“I didn’t want to put another life in danger. I and my husband knew we had HIV as well as our first born, that’s why it took us 10 years to have another child” says Kakyama.
In 2011, Kakyama’s attitude would change when her husband returned home to tell her about a Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) billboard which read, ‘Have an HIV-Free Baby’.
They heard the same announcement on CBS FM. Months later, they attended an antenatal clinic in Mubende where they were counseled and started on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) therapy.
As UHMG marked 10 years last week, Kakyama, now a mother of two more HIV-negative children, and many other Ugandans are thankful to this not-for-profit organisation founded by a group of distinguished public health and social marketing Ugandan professionals in 2006.
Ten years ago when Uganda was registering some distressing health indicators in areas of HIV/Aids, unacceptable maternal, child and infant mortality rates, a high fertility rate at 6.7 children per woman, and unmet needs for family planning, UHMG joined the industry with effective communication slogans such as ‘Get Off The Sexual Network’, ‘Family Planning Smart Choices’ and an integrated campaign dubbed ‘Half Love’, among others.
They are also behind Aquasafe, a campaign to promote safe water in schools and institutions.
“We are delivering on our promise of a good life, but not celebrating. This country is still faced with serious health challenges,” Joyce Tamale, the UHMG managing director, said during a health camp in Mengo, where the Katikkiro of Buganda Charles Peter Mayiga encouraged the gathering to adopt a positive lifestyle.
During the camp, health services were provided in family planning, malaria, HIV, STI, nutrition, hepatitis B vaccination, cervical cancer screening and general diagnostics.
In partnership with ministry of health, USAID, UNFPA and Global Fund since 2013, UHMG has focused on health interventions in areas of sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, combating HIV/Aids, malaria and sanitation.