Saturday October 19, 2019

Uganda Remembers AIDS Victims by Marking ‘International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day’

According to the Uganda AIDS Commission, the country records 50,000 new infections annually, about one-third of them being young people

0
//
AIDS
FILE - A campaign supporter lights candles in the Philippines as part of commemorations of International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day in Quezon city, metro Manila, the Philippines, May 14, 2016. VOA

Uganda is marking International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day with activities to remember the estimated 2 million Ugandans who have died of the disease.

While the government and development partners have increased campaigns for HIV awareness, however, the stigma and discrimination attached to the disease keep many Ugandans fearful from learning of or talking about their HIV status, says those who carry the virus.

Twenty-five-year-old Namanya Martin Paul was born with HIV. Having lost his father to AIDS at the age of 2, he only learned about his status at age 10 when his mother, also HIV positive, was attending antenatal care. His other three siblings were then found to be HIV-positive. Paul was forced to change schools due to discrimination until he made a decision to open up.

“It’s not easy. There’s a particular point in time where a nurse got to know my situation, where I was keeping my medication and she actually, like, made it very open to school,” Paul said. “So, I called for a school parade and told these people, this is who I am. Am living with HIV, am taking my medication. And, you need to support me.”

AIDS
According to the Uganda AIDS Commission, the country records 50,000 new infections annually, about one-third of them being young people. Flickr

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness. According to the Uganda AIDS Commission, the country records 50,000 new infections annually, about one-third of them being young people. Sarah Nakku, the U.N. AIDS community mobilization adviser, says many infected people are careful about revealing their status.

“We do have laws that discriminate against people living with HIV. … That instead of allowing people to come out openly,” Nakku said. “Incidentally, people decide to hide because they do not want to fall victims of the law. We also have schools where discrimination does happen. If you don’t tap into the teachers, this young person cannot be supported to adhere on treatment.”

In 2018, the government launched an initiative that demands every institution, both government and private, address the needs of HIV-positive people as part of its workplace policy.

Dr. Nelson Musoba, director-general of the Uganda AIDS Commission, says that even though the government has set up more effective measures to curb the disease, Ugandans need to be more careful about exposing themselves to HIV.

HIV
School girls light candles in the shape of a ribbon during a HIV/AIDS awareness campaign ahead of World Aids Day, in Ahmedabad, India, Nov. 30, 2016. VOA

ALSO READ: Missouri Assembly Approves Bill to Prohibit Women from Seeking Abortion

“So, we also have the pre-exposure prophylaxis, which the HIV-negative partner takes to ensure that they remain HIV-negative. There’s research going on, on vaccines, on other treatments, but we need to stay alive for us to benefit from those technologies. We can’t afford to be reckless just because there’s treatment,” Musoba said.

The Ministry of Health says Uganda is close to achieving its “90-90-90” target, set in 2014. The aim is for 90 percent of people living with HIV to know their status, 90 percent who test positive to enroll in care and treatment, and 90 percent of those in treatment to achieve “viral load suppression” — that is, for the virus to become inactive. (VOA)

Next Story

Progress in Combating Global HIV/AIDS Epidemics Receding

The joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, warns the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections

0
Photo shows the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, May 22, 2019. VOA

A report issued on the eve of an international AIDS conference in Mexico finds progress in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is receding.  The joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, warns the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections is slowing because nations lack the political will needed to end this scourge.

UNAIDS latest global update finds 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2018 and 770,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses.  The report finds more than 23 million people are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, but another 15 million are still not receiving this life-saving treatment.

UNAIDS Acting Executive Director Gunilla Carlsson says the report for the first time shows key populations and their sexual partners account for more than half of all new HIV infections.  She notes up to 54 percent of new infections is being spread by sex workers, drug users, men having sex with men, transgenders and prisoners.

She tells VOA these key populations suffer from stigma and discrimination.  Consequently, she says they are not being reached at the scale needed to stop transmission of HIV.

Global, HIV, AIDS
A report issued on the eve of an international AIDS conference in Mexico finds progress in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is receding. Pixabay

“The risk of those people being left behind and not being treated in a proper manner with access not only to rights, but also to treatment and care–if we cannot talk about that, we will not solve this.  We see in special regions then where this is extra-noticeable,” Carlsson said.

Carlsson says new infections have risen by 29 percent since 2010 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  During the same period, HIV infections have risen by 10 percent in the Middle-East and North Africa.

She says the global HIV/AIDS map shows a mixed picture.  She says some progress has been made in Western Europe and North America, though the number of new infections and deaths there remains unacceptably high.

As in the past, the report finds the majority of people living with HIV and new infections is in Eastern and Southern Africa.  However, it notes interventions in heavily-affected South Africa have succeeded in reducing HIV infections by 40 percent.

Also Read- Democrats Campaigning on Medicare for All Wrestling With How to Pay for The Dramatic Overhaul

Carlsson warns efforts to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic will fail without adequate funding.  She says available resources to respond to AIDS has fallen by nearly $1 billion.  Furthermore, she notes the UNAIDS program is more than $7 billion short of the estimated $26.2 billion needed by 2020. (VOA)