Stubborn men reversing strides in HIV/AIDS fight – M7
President Yoweri Museveni has vowed to rekindle the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda and Africa saying while medicine is improving and new techniques, including using disposable syringes and blood transfusion have progressed, greedy and indisciplined men are reversing the stride in the fight against the epidemic.
“The problem we have in Uganda now are the men. They are the mobile spreaders of AIDS. They don’t go for testing; therefore, they don’t get ARVs and, therefore, spread the virus. What we want is to force them to test and put the sick on ARVs. In that way, we close all the gaps,” he said.
The President was speaking at a working lunch organized by AIDS Watch Africa (AWA) on the topic, “Presidential Leadership: Fast Track to End HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria,” at the sidelines of the 29th Ordinary Assembly of the African Union meeting at the Multipurpose Hall at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday.
AIDS Watch Africa (AWA) is a statutory entity of the African Union with the specific mandate to lead advocacy, accountability and resource mobilization efforts to advance a robust African response to end AIDS, TB and malaria by 2030.
“In 1986 when we found out that AIDS was wide spread, with the prevalence in some areas as high as 30 percent…I was happy to note that it was easy to stop. It was not like influenza because it was not transmitted by air or even if you shook hands of somebody with AIDS you could not get it,” he said, adding that, “AIDS was spread in four ways with the first and main highway of infection being through sex: the use of syringes for injections; blood transfusion, at that time there were no proper checks and mother to child transmission.”
The President said he immediately called for mass sensitization of Ugandans on HIV/AIDS.
“I made enduulu, (an alarm). When an enemy comes to the village, you make an alarm. We made sensitization and in no time prevalence dropped from thirty percent to six in a very short time.
That’s how we involved our strategy of ABC; abstinence, be faithful to your partner but if you are too greedy for sex use condoms,” he said.
The President said the campaign slowed down into a regression when people abandoned the strategy but it has now been rekindled.
“Things are easier now, we covered the other four and now remaining with one route; sex. Fortunately…and why Sidibe called me here…he is a good ally: new information is now that if you put our people on ARVs, even if they misbehave with partners, they will not infect them because the drug would have suppressed virus in body. It will not eliminate it but it is not strong enough to infect,” he said.
The President said the drugs have improved and the strategy now is to go for testing; as soon as you find you are HIV positive go straight for drugs.
“When you do that, drugs suppress the virus and you can’t infect other people even if you misbehave through unprotected sex. That is why we are talking of an AIDS free Uganda and Africa by 2030,” he said.
The President rooted for Uganda’s pharmaceutical firm Cipla Quality Chemicals Industries Limited (CIPLAQCIL), a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Kampala, with a principal activity of manufacturing anti-retroviral drugs (ARV’s) and Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies-ACTs to combat HIV/AIDS and Malaria respectively, urging Global Fund to buy from Uganda even as they consider developing their own industry.
“I heard that you wanted to develop a pharmaceutical industry, I have already developed one in Uganda but you don’t buy from me, I don’t know why. The World Global Fund man spoke but I always find problems, they don’t buy our ARVs and don’t buy our anti malarials, I don’t know why. You come and buy,” he said.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, has previously urged African leaders, the AU Commission, representatives of regional economic communities, development partners and civil society present to ensure that the significant investment that has already been made is not lost.