Uganda commemorated the World AIDS Day (WAD) 2016 at the public playground in Kalangala District, under the theme “joining Hands to scale up HIV prevention”, with a message to the public to test for HIV and seek treatment.
The President of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was the guest of honor at the ceremony and he called for a double-pronged approach to HIV/AIDS in Uganda. This approach, he said, should be through increasing awareness for prevention of HIV/AIDS and consolidating the achievements and efforts of Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART), Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) as well scaling up HIV testing and immediate initiation of treatment.
H.E Museveni also applauded the new guidelines on starting treatment once someone tests positive saying it is important to keep the infection down.
The Chairperson of the AIDS Development Partners in Uganda, Mr. Andrew Musoke, who is also the Chief of Party at Clinton Health Access Initiative reechoed the need for increased awareness about HIV/AIDS in Uganda. He further decried the over 500 new infections of young women every year and called for measures to reduce HIV transmissions, new infections as well as related deaths.
The UNAIDS Country Coordinator Ms. Sande Amakobe who spoke on behalf of the United Nations system in Uganda, acknowledged government’s commitment towards the HIV/AIDS response and said it is key in tackling the HIV/AIDS scourge. She further thanked the President for being the HIV champion and highlighted the importance of prioritizing the adolescent girls, young women and key populations in the response in order to achieve the 90-90-90 targets.
Dr. Christine Ondoa, Director General of the Uganda AIDS Commission, gave a report on the HIV situation in Uganda, noting that by the end of 2015, Uganda was the first country to reduce Mother to Child Transmission by 86%. She further said that Kalangala was chosen because it lies in the greater Masaka region which has the highest HIV prevalence in Uganda. She however said that the 90-90-90 target is almost achieved in Kalangala and committed to work with partners and the ADP to achieve this target.
Activities to commemorate the World AIDS Day started earlier by different implementing partners and the MoH providing HIV testing services in the different locations of Kalangala. During the commemoration, different services like HIV testing, counseling, and awareness creation were also offered.
Other dignitaries at the event included the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Minister for Presidency, AIDS Development Partners (ADPs), implementing partners, schools and the media.
WHO released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access to and uptake of HIV diagnosis.
HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood- finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting. Results are ready within 20 minutes or less. Those with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics. WHO recommends they receive information and linkage to counselling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services.
HIV self-testing is a way to reach more people with undiagnosed HIV and represents a step forward to empower individuals, diagnose people earlier before they become sick, bring services closer to where people live, and create demand for HIV testing. This is particularly important for those people facing barriers to accessing existing services.