SITUATION OF HIV/AIDS AMONG UGANDAN YOUTH
On behalf of the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC), I wish to commend the National Youth Council for convening this very important dialogue. I thank you for inviting the UAC to be part of this engagement. This is especially important because of the vital link between the Youth and what UAC does in the effort to bring down the burden of HIV and AIDS in this country.
Uganda AIDS Commission is mandated by law in Uganda, to Plan, Coordinate and Monitor the HIV response in the country. We have therefore collaborated with partners to put in place policies, plans and strategies to combat HIV and AIDS in this country. The National HIV and AIDS strategic plan 2015/16 – 2019/2020 guides our national HIV and AIDS response.
Uganda has lost close to 2 million people to the HIV epidemic, more than all post independence wars combined together. Currently, there are about 1.2 million Ugandans living with HIV. HIV remains a significant challenge to Uganda. Its effects on the economy and society remains unacceptably high with up to 83,000 having contracted the HIV in 2016 (227 infections per day and 9 infections per hour), while 28,000 died of HIV related illness in the same year (77 deaths per day). Young people, especially young women and girls are disproportionately affected. 60% of the deaths are men due their poor health seeking behavior. Men remain most affected due to their poor seeking behavior who then transmit the HIV infections to young girls.
While we have made great achievements, there are still several bottlenecks that we need to jointly address including; reversing the 83,000 new HIV infections every year majority of which are among young people especially girls and 3,100 new HIV infections among children below 15 years. In 2015, it was estimated that 567 Young people aged between 15-24years get infected with HIV every week and of these 363 are Girls! We also have to work hard to find, test and enroll an additional 300,000 people who have contracted HIV but are not aware.
Uganda has a predominately young population with adolescents constituting 24.3% of the population. According to the Ministry of Health estimates for 2015, HIV incidence (number of new HIV infections) among adolescents remains high estimated at 11,026 (11.6%). One in every four new infections among women 15-49 years in Uganda occurred in adolescents and young women aged 15-24 years (GAP Report 2014). Young women who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) were 50% more likely to have acquired HIV than women who had not experienced violence. In Uganda 3% of adolescent girls 15-19 years live with HIV and prevalence doubles [7.1%] by the time they are 24 years (UAIS, 2011).
The National HIV Strategic Plan (2015/16-2019/20) prioritizes adolescents and young people by recognizing the high burden of HIV among this age group and the underlying structural factors that act as drivers for new HIV infections. Adolescents are hence categorized as vulnerable populations in relation to acquiring new HIV infections. There are also recognized unique barriers for demand and delivery of services to this category of the population.
As you all know, in early 1990s, Uganda is reputed all over the world as pioneer and leader in fight against HIV and AIDS. This reputation was due to tireless leadership led by H.E the President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in mobilizing and sensitizing the communities about HIV and AIDS. This inspired other leaders, political, cultural, religious and civic at all levels to show leadership in fighting HIV and AIDS in the Country
However, between 2001 and 2010, several gains were noted to be in reversal. Uganda lost focus on behavior as center piece of the national efforts to turn off the new infections, there was complacency and several of the prevention efforts were relaxed. As result, the country reverted to pre-epidemic HIV life styles. The epidemic went high from 6.4% to 7.3%.
HIV remains a multi-sectoral development issue that continues to impact Uganda’s economic growth and still requires concerted multi-sectoral coordination efforts. If Uganda is to harness the demographic dividend, then the youth must be healthy.
Globally and nationally Uganda is committed to the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic as a public Health threat by 2030. This calls for acceleration of efforts to combat the epidemic and implementation, at an adequate scale, of interventions that have been known to produce desired results.
Presidential Fast Track Initiative to end AIDS as a Public Health Threat in Uganda by 2030
In response to current challenges and call for action based on Global targets of ending AIDS by 2030, HE has given a directive on Presidential Fast Track Initiative to end AIDS as a Public Health Threat in Uganda by 2030. 5 point plan has been initiative and all the Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Development Partners and all stakeholders are involved to implement the initiative
- Close the tap on new HIV infections, particularly among the girls and young women and their male partners
- Consolidate Elimination of Mother to child Transmission of HIV
- Accelerate the implementation of Test and Treat and attainment of 90-90-90 with emphasis given to promotion of male utilization of services
- Ensure financial sustainability for the HIV and AIDS response
- Promote Institutional effectiveness for a multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS response
CALL FOR ACTION TO THE YOUTH IN FIGHT AGAINST HIV AND AIDS FROM HE THE PRESIDENT
MESSAGES TO MEN
- Testing, and receiving test results to know where they stand.
- If the test is negative, practicing risk reduction and prevention measures such as abstinence, faithfulness, reduction of sexual partners and condom use.
- If the test is positive, start taking ARVs immediately as told by the health worker.
- Remember, as a man, you can only do what you want to do if you are alive.
Remember, your HIV status expires every time you have unprotected sex with someone whose HIV status you do not know.
Every young person must a stand against HIV by doing the following:
- Abstain from sex until you are ready for the consequences and responsibilities that come with it. Just because your friends are having sex does not mean that you should have it. The consequences are not shared by your friends
- If sexually active, adopt safer sex practices such as using condoms and faithfulness
- Before you engage in sex, know your HIV status and that of your partner
- Avoid bad influences and risky places
- Avoid alcohol and drug abuse that compromise your decision making and expose you to HIV, teenage pregnancy and premature death.
As parents you are the foundation of the family and children depend on you for their safety and wellbeing. Children need someone they trust as their source of information and advise. Therefore parents must take a stand against HIV by doing the following:
- Spend quality time with your children and set an example for them to follow.
- Equip your children with skills on how to deal with peer pressure that results in risky behavior such as early sex, alcohol and drug abuse that result into premature death
- Understand and discuss the unique needs of young people especially adolescents such as body changes, attraction to opposite sex among others
- Create an enabling environment at home for your children to freely discuss issues of sexuality, body changes and HIV
- Support your children to complete school
As Leaders you must take a stand against HIV by encouraging people to close the tap on new infections by mobilizing and encouraging people to:
- Provide clear and accurate information on how to prevent contracting and spreading HIV.
- mobilize communities especially men to adopt risky reduction strategies such as abstinence, faithfulness and condom use to prevent HIV
- Encourage people to test for HIV and receive results. Those who are positive should start treatment immediately
- Motivate young people to stay in school and engage in productive activities
- Mobilize communities against negative social and cultural practices such as early marriage and gender based violence that expose people to risk of HIV
In conclusion, I wish to underscore that you the Youth are at the heart of the work that we do as Uganda AIDS Commission. We have recently held discussions with the National Youth Council on what we need to do differently to ensure that that the Youth meaningfully participate in all efforts to fight HIV /AIDS in this country. As the theme for today, resourcing of your programmes is very key. UAC remains committed to ensuring that Youth programmes are supported and financed to fight HIV/AIDS and thus promote development.
For God and My Country
Dr. Nelson Musoba
Acting Director General/Uganda AIDS Commission