The elephant in the room

FISHO Mwale.

EVERY parent’s fear is to hear that your child is on drugs or is an excessive alcohol abuser.

When I was mayor of Lusaka, I had an opportunity to truly love my young brother and admire him for his courage a moment before he passed away.
He inspired me to write an article titled ‘Legacy’. My young brother, Maybin Nyongani ‘Madi’ Mwale, was a musician, an artiste of great talent (MHSRIP).
As he lay in my arms dying, he said: “Do not let my death be in vain if you can tell the kids out there how bad this is… HIV and drugs are there. I will die happy.”
At that moment, I loved my brother more than anyone and admired his courage but it was too late to tell him.
I started my crusade against HIV and drug abuse and used the office of mayor.
This resulted in my co-founding a continental movement called The Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders against HIV/AIDS in Africa.
This continental organisation transformed into a United Nations supported body called AMICAALL (Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa).
To this day, AMICAALL is operating in more than 30 countries.
As we prepare to commemorate World AIDS Day, let us deeply reflect and question our own personal roles in fighting HIV/AIDS. The battle is now more sophisticated because as the medications become more accessible and easier to apply, HIV and AIDS becomes less a life-threatening disease but a lifestyle change management illness.
In developed countries, it is no longer life-threatening and this has led to a dangerous level of nonchalance or casualness when dealing with the pandemic.
We are now faced with a greater challenge of new sophisticated recreational cheap drugs. We now even have drugs for “date rape”. The most frightful is cough syrup or codeine popularised by Lil Wayne and other hip-hop artistes.
Cough syrup is one of the biggest off-the-counter drugs. How many parents know that it’s a drug? Kids in nightclubs are using stuff which we parents can’t keep up with.
My visit to Kanele in Garden compound left me traumatised. I was introduced to a drink called ‘Lose your memory’, a deadly concoction which has as an essential ingredient, a drug stolen from Chainama Hills Hospital. You drink this stuff and within a short time, you lose your memory.
A litre costs K3. We have kids walking like petrified zombies trying to regain the warmth of life in Garden compound.
We have a huge drug and alcohol abuse problem, which invariably exacerbates the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zambia. Wake up Zambia, there is an elephant in the room. Say no to drugs and alcohol abuse.
Happy World AIDS Day in advance.
The author is a civic leader and former mayor of Lusaka.

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