Friday December 13, 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

More than Half of European Women Diagnosed at a Late Stage of HIV Infection: WHO

More than half of European women with HIV diagnosed late

0
WHO
A study by WHO revealed that most of the European women with HIV are diagnosed at a late stage. Wikimedia Commons

More than half of European women, particularly those in their 40s, diagnosed at a late stage of HIV infection when their immune system is already starting to fail, says a new study by WHO, adding that they are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed late than younger women.

According to 2018 data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, women accounted for one-third of the 1,41, 000 new HIV diagnoses in the region, indicating that this population needs more attention in Europe’s prevention and testing efforts.

“Late diagnosis in women indicates that gender-sensitive counselling and testing, including information about sexual health, is not reaching this population. It’s time to end the silence about sexual health, especially when it comes to HIV, and ensure that women are well informed and enabled to protect themselves,” said Piroska Ostlin, WHO Regional Director for Europe ad interim.

“If we are to achieve universal health coverage, we need to improve prevention, treatment and care for women and reduce missed opportunities for testing those vulnerable to HIV in health facilities and in the community,” Ostlin added.

WHO- HIV
The regional director of WHO said that the treatment and care for women with AIDS needs to be improved. Lifetime Stock

The HIV epidemic in the region is driven by a persistent problem with late diagnosis, and this affects 54 per cent of known cases among women, said the study published in the journal Eurosurveillance.

Such proportions of late diagnoses are partly a result of relatively low HIV testing coverage and uptake in the region and are an indication that sexual risks, including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, are not being adequately addressed with older adults.

Two-thirds (60 per cent) of the HIV diagnoses among women in 2018 were in the age group 30-49 years old. Heterosexual sex was the most commonly reported HIV transmission mode (92 per cent) among women in the Region.

Countries in central Europe reported almost six times fewer diagnoses among women compared to men in 2018, and three times fewer diagnoses among women than men were reported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA).

The only exception is the eastern part of the region, where there is a more even distribution between women and men, and where 86 per cent of the almost 50,000 cases among women were reported in 2018.

Also Read- Foodies Must Try These Dishes from the Streets of Kolkata

“Too many people living with HIV are still not aware of their status. The sooner women and men know of their HIV status, the sooner they can be put on antiretroviral treatment and halt transmission of HIV sexually,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

“We must all ramp up our efforts to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic in order to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Andriukaitis added. (IANS)