WORLD AIDS DAY
Every year, AIDS DAY is celebrated on December 1st To Raise Awareness about HIV/AIDS and to demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the Pandemic.
The Day is an opportunity for public and private partners to disseminate information about the status of the pandemic to encourage progress in HIV /AID Prevention , Treatment and care around the World ,particularly high prevalence countries like Uganda.
Aswe celebrate World AIDS day we are bringing you one of our own who has undertaken all it takes to fight HIV/AIDS in Busoga and Uganda at large .
Owek Sheila Birungi Gandhi , A state Minister of Health (Obwa Kyabazinga Bwa Busoga ) Omwise Nkwalu and also the Executive Director of The AIDS Information Centre (AIC) one of the first AIDS Service Organizations in Uganda .
Owek Sheila, dedicated her life in fighting HIV /AIDS in Busoga and Uganda at large .
Owek Sheila continued to support the District Local Government, the Ministry of Health, the Uganda AIDS Commission and the country at large to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, provide services through its partners, take stock of achievements, commemorate those who have passed away and rededicate herself to the HIV and AIDS response using cultural and AIC structures and mandate .
According to Owek Sheila ,HIV and AIDS continue to pose a major public health and economic challenge world over, threatening the attainment of the SDGs, particularly in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Among so many factors driving the HIV epidemic are behavioral, socio_- cultural and biomedical factors including concurrent sexual partnerships, discordance and non-disclosure, transactional and commercial sex, low and inconsistent condom use, low male circumcision, alcohol and drug abuse. Structural, socio-cultural and economic aspects, marriage and family values, and wealth; gender inequalities; stigma, human rights and discrimination as well as limited male involvement which has provided a fertile ground to sustain the epidemic, particularly in Uganda
Sheila’s Contributions to the National efforts
Sheila has played significant roles towards the national efforts to scale up HIV prevention, care and treatment, Social support and Protection and Cultural Health Systems Strengthening in the following ways :-
1. Engaging men in HIV prevention and close the tap on new infections particularly among adolescent girls and young women.
2. Accelerating implementation of Test and Treat and attainment of 90-90-90 targets particularly among men and young people.
3. Consolidating progress on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
4. Ensuring financial sustainability for the HIV and AIDS response.
5. Ensuring institutional effectiveness for a well-coordinated multi-sectoral response.
Sheila under The Ministry of Health Busoga used the cultural mandate during the year 2018 in line with the health strategy and mobilized partners to accelerate awareness creation and advocacy, mobilize communities using the cultural structure and re-emphasised the role of cultural leaders at household and community levels towards HIV Prevention and control and activism against gender based violence in the region.
Sheila has continuously evolved into HIV testing especially targeting young men, Adolescent and young women aged 15 – 24 years, The entry point to HIV prevention, care, and treatment and support services is HTS which helps to diagnose HIV early and correctly to ensure early access to prevention, treatment and support services.
In conclusion Owek Sheila said ” I will continue to use cultural events as a platform for its service delivery through partners. HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) and linkage of those tested HIV Positive to care. ”
Owek Sheila also recognizes the contribution made by the different development partners who provided both technical and financial support to contribute to the annual achievements. The ministry of Health District line departments, Development partners including USAID through the University Research Company ( URC ) with its RHITES EC project, Civil Society Organisations like The AIDS information Centre(AIC) and The AIDS Support Organisation ( TASO) for integrated HIV/Sexual Reproductive Health services, Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) for Reproductive Health and social Marketing, Community Mobilisation and communication for Health by the OBULAMU campaign, Reproductive health Uganda ( RHU) , Optical services by sight savers, Emergency response by Uganda Red cross ( URCS) , Blood donor recruitment by Blood Bank, Maama’s Club for the male engagement agenda to end AIDS and Hope after Rape ( HAR) for Sexual Gender Based Violence redress .
Sheila’s leadership structure confirms its renewed commitment to work with all stake Holders to continue with her contribution to the HIV responses .