By Venenscias Kiiza
The minister for Presidency, Milly Babalanda has illuminated strategies Uganda can exploit to end HIV/AIDS scourge by 2030. While addressing guests including President Museveni at Kololo independence grounds who had turned up to mark National World AIDS day every 1st December, the minister opined that recognizing and supporting about the 1.4million persons living with HIV/AIDS is the first step. By recognizing them, she says they come out of hiding in order to access HIV services without any fear.
It will also be prudent, according to the minister, to offer them maximum social and emotional support in order to promote their dignity and positive living—this also makes them feel loved and not stigmatized. Babalanda is also challenging all leaders to always dedicate at least 2-5 percent of their public speeches to issues of HIV and AIDS as one way of re-energizing the message of AIDS in the population.
In line with eliminating HIV by 2030, another strategy has been to train 200 youths as peer mentors in HIV prevention, patriotism and mindset change. This training took place at Kaazi Scouts Grounds. According to the minister, the trained youth will take the message of HIV prevention to the five divisions of Kampala. It is anticipated that at least 10,000 youths will be reached and skilled in HIV services utilization by 30 December 2021.
To achieve the above, she revealed that the country has put in place measures to ensure HIV war is mainstreamed in all sectors including under programs of the third National Development Plan. She applauded the job well done by legislators, ministers and the President in this war against HIV.
“To the People Living with HIV and AIDS, I wish to thank you for standing firm, shining and contributing to national development. You have given your views and proposals on where the interventions and focus should be in order to attain results,” she said.
GLOBAL TARGET, MUSEUM
Because of clear direction under the guidance of President Museveni, Uganda has been ranked among the eight countries in the whole world that achieved the global target of 90 to 90 to 90 by December 2020. That is to say: 90 percent of the population gets tested for the virus and 90 percent of those who test positive are put on treatment and eventually 90 percent of those on treatment are able to sustain on the treatment. But that’s not enough, and according to Babalanda, gears have now been engaged to new global targets of 95 to 95 to 95.
“After all these achievements and with only nine years left to the national target of completely ending AIDS as a public health problem in 2030; the Uganda AIDS Commission at my proposal is planning to document and put on record for the future generations all the atrocities committed by this virus to the people of Uganda since 1980. The Uganda AIDS Commission is planning to establish the first-ever Uganda AIDS Memory Museum.”
The planned museum, she says will showcase and explain to our younger generations who did not see and neither feel the toughness and effects of this terrible pandemic especially in the early days of the eighties.
“The Museum will also document the long journey of the NRM government and especially your leadership in the battle against this enemy.
The Uganda AIDS Commission already has land in Kampala City where this project can be established but will need funds to construct and equip the Museum.”
FAKE AIDS ORGANIZATIONS
The minister also has no kind words for Uganda AIDS Commission bosses who have allowed fake AIDs organizations to mushroom and in the long run diddle donors, something she says water down all anti HIV initiatives.
“However, Your, Excellency; there are those friends of ours in the name of partners who have made it their cause to use the AIDS platform to steal from donors and the people infected and affected by the AIDS problem. I accordingly directed the Director General of the Uganda AIDS Commission to strictly regulate operations of our stakeholders and to deal with the problem of fake AIDS organizations,” she revealed.
Just like in the novel ‘Oliver Twist’ where the protagonist asks for more, Babalanda also implored stakeholders to increase funding to the national response and adequate funding of the Uganda AIDS Commission. She says this will go a long way in consolidating the gains and at the same time help to achieve the targeted interventions which are highlighted in the National HIV Strategic Plan 2020/21 to 2024/25.
She also highlighted the challenge of some health workers and other caregivers especially in upcountry stations who continue to mistreat and stigmatize HIV and AIDS patients. “This is counterproductive to the targets we have set to end AIDS by 2030 and should be stopped.”
Addressing the gathering, the US Ambassador, H.E Natalie Brown, enumerated US support to the fight against HIV/AIDS and congratulated Uganda upon achieving the 90-90-90 target and pledged further support.
The minister of health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, enumerated achievements attained in the fight against Aids and thanked international partners in the fight like PEPFAR, UNAIDS, WHO and UNICEF who have supported the response to HIV. Others she thanked are bilateral and multilateral partners like Ireland, World Bank and FCDO; networks of people living with HIV in the private sector.
Dr. Aceng appreciated H.E the President for his “extraordinary leadership in the fight against HIV and all pandemics that we have and may have”.She called on Ugandans to get vaccinated against Covid-19.