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Health as a human right

Football is a universal language – but not to me though. I had to ask Vineet, Concern UK’s new trustee, who was travelling with me here in Uganda, how many people are on a football team.

Vineet informed me there are 11 without the substitutes. Charles, who works here with one of Concern’s partners, told me that only two people survived from his football team. The rest of them were taken by HIV and AIDS.

Charles’ own survival has enabled him to work in a different era of HIV and AIDS. He has witnessed a remarkable change, a tribute to a universal language as powerful as football, the universality of the human right to health.

In Rakai, Charles told me they do not see the same emaciated figures anymore, because the drugs are available even in remote villages. Sometimes supply is unreliable, sometimes people have to travel very far, but they are available. Yes, there are many problems. People are often so short of food that it makes treatments difficult to take. Yes, there are very real challenges with prevention. This area is so often hijacked by ideology rather than dealt with as a practical challenge. This needs addressing with courage and openness.

Charles and others like him could dream “an impossible dream”. They believe that with enough pressure at every level, an interlinking chain of activists, scientists and health workers, musicians, politicians and economists, sportsmen, women, and journalists, could all play a part. They could ensure that in the poorest parts of the world, those experiencing the horrors of HIV and AIDS would be able to access modern medicines. These medicines could reverse the terrible consequences of the most malign epidemic in our history.

This may be too late for most of Charles’s footballing friends, but we must keep our eyes on the prize – the footballers of the future.

This is the last of Lydall Stein’s blog posts from Uganda.