Simon Peter Onaba was a Ugandan delegate at the 2004 Bangkok World AIDS Summit,he shares his heart on global AIDS Policy,Sexual restraint and raising a son.
What have you been up to since you last represented in Bangkok?
I came back, graduated, and a year later, I married my campus sweetheart in December 2005, it’s now been eight yearsin marriage.
You held the torch for abstinence before marriage and now you are holding one for fidelity.do you see them linked in anyway?
It’s the same discipline, skills and convictions, same self-control is the same skill you apply, when you get married ,the battle for purity becomes harder,the things I believed then, honoring Women, pursuing goals, staying free of HIV, honoring my wife have not changed.
Eight years in marriage, what have been the suprises?
Marriage is exciting, popular culture didn’t tell me that, marriage preparation helped me gear up for it, me and my wife have committed to work on it, it takes work, we were not sexually involved in courtship and that helped us focus on the friendship. Most relationships are shallow because they are no more than sex. My wife is still my best friend.
Did the flame flicker out at one point?
Yeah.especially in the tough times
How did you rekindle it?
At one point we had to live with another family for two years before we set out in our own home. During that time, leadership was key, as a man, had to keep pointing to her where we were headed. Nesting is key, I realize it’s important for a man to tell their wife, “this is our home”, but living under someone’s roof was a test but the little money we saved was helpful and we were able to make to our own home.
The other test was when we lost our first son that was tough, I had to be strong yet I also needed to be weak, we agreed that no explanation was strong enough, we actually bonded more during that time and I also kept leading.
You keep talking of leading, what do you mean by that in context?
For me it’s all action, it’s not feelings, I lead with my actions. Leadership in marriage means your word is your word, it means you are a dependable guy, it’s serving ,providing, taking care of my wife, because many guys out there run away from that, I need to keep saying ,here is where we are headed.
Do you think the fight against HIV/AIDS in this country is engaging you marrieds well enough?
No, feels like the blame for the rising rates has so been directed to marrieds. There is too much hostility towards the institution. For us, we have decided to keep things at a personal level, whether we are given money or not, this is personal, we are owning up the campaign, we don’t want to become statistics. As young marrieds’ in this country, who chose restraint before matrimony and fidelity after the knot,We’ve enlisted an informal community of likeminded folks and together we are affirming what we believe, we have no budgets, no project proposals and I am sure we having a ripple effect.
If there was a Global willingness to help reinforce the things you standfor, what would you like it to be?
First I would ask the global players to quit the prejudice, there is just people who hate morality, public health is a moral issue, people practically believe for example it is impossible for a guy to do without sex, and by doing so, they work against what actually works, many undercover programs are running unfunded .This is our life, increasingly I feel like there is no forum forthose like us, while you may not believe in what we do, then don’t throw us away.
If you had a chance to be single again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Except making the sexual purity commitment a little earlier, because I did that a little later, Icommitted to sexual abstinence as a first year university student.
You now have a sonJoshua?
Yeah, four months now.
What would you anticipate to tell Joshua on his bachelor’s party?
What I would tell him is what I would have lived in front of him, how he watched me treat the women around me, honorably and caringly. –that. I would affirm what I have lived before him up to that time.
As a Christian; don’t you think it is unrealistic to demand sexual purity from those who do not have the spirit of God?
It’s not unrealistic, there are different levels of engagement, if someone who’s not Christian chooses to be sexually pure they will be free form HIV/AIDS and other diseases, via public health, it is good to delay sexual debut, I have seen people who do it with several other motivations like an enabling environment
Think of it, we wouldn’t have many defilers filling our jails and half the corruption cases if we only taught restraint as a life skill.
Five minutes with the UNAIDS Chief, What would you tell them?
(Long pause) Abstinence and fidelity campaigns work and they need to be brought at the forefront. Uganda’s program specifically has been screwed away from what worked.
Any last words?
In Bangkok, There was guy from Planned Parenthood who called abstinence an illusion while I sat there listening and I remember asking myself, “am I an illusion? What’s wrong with me”, I simply shared my story and while some people applauded me others booed me.I was surprised, I thought I was going to be celebrated, In fact someone asked me, “So how many times do you masturbate in a day?” .I left the place very depressed and determined, There is a world that does not understand us .We are continuing to challenge each other through this opposition.