Uganda: Covid-19 Stands in the Way of HIV/Aids Fight

Uganda Aids Commission is currently running sensitisation messages, “Your HIV negative status expires every time you have unprotected sex with someone whose HIV status you do not know,” ahead of the World Aids Day commemoration.

While addressing the press at Uganda Media Centre last week, the Minister for the Presidency, Ms Esther Mbayo, announced that Uganda will join the rest of the world to commemorate the World Aids Day virtually.

Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) was established under the Office of the President by statute of Parliament in 1992 to coordinate the multi-sectoral response to the HIV and Aids epidemic. The Commission is mandated to provide oversight and coordination of all HIV and Aids activities in the country. The commission is committed to ending Aids by 2030.

But with the coronavirus pandemic, gains made over the years will require more resources and willingness than just commitments to end HIV/Aids.

Every year, the world honours the day to reflect on the fight against HIV. This year’s national theme is “National solidarity and a shared responsibility towards ending Aids.”

“We remember those who have sadly passed on from this disease. We make a rallying call to all stake- holders to come together and we want to make sure that everybody is on board including civil, political, cultural and religious leaders. It is everybody’s responsibility to protect themselves and their families,” Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the Aids control programme manager at the Ministry of Health, told Daily Monitor yesterday.

“We want people on drugs to remain on treatment but not transmit the disease to others. We want to also continue to mobilise people on the ABC (abstain, be faithful and use a condom) model,” he added.

During the lockdown period, there were concerns that some clients might have missed out on their treatment due to the movement restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health responded with a guideline for essential workers and some patients had medicine for two to three months, especially those on stable treatment and with already suppressed viral load.

Pre-event activities for the day included the Kabaka’s run 2020 that took place on Sunday. The exercise focused on ending Aids as a public health threat in Uganda by 2030.

The Kabaka’s run that was held at the Kingdom palace in Mengo emphasised on the role of men in the fight against Aids.

According to a 2019 United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) report, an estimated 1.4 million people are living with the virus, 53,000 new infections are registered annually, and an estimated 21,000 Ugandans died of Aids-related illnesses. In December 2013, UNAIDS strategised with regions and country specific agendas to have the 90 90 90 target by 2020.

UNAIDS is an innovative joint venture of the United Nations family which brings together the efforts and resources of 11 UN system organisations to unite the world against AIDS.

But due to the coronavirus restriction measures and economic meltdown, the odds are against these strategists to achieve their target.

The powerful momentum is now building towards a new narrative on HIV/Aids treatment and a new, final, ambitious, but achievable target of having 90 per cent of all people living with the virus know their status, 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV/Aids infection to have received sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by end of 2020.

In a press statement early this week, Ms Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS said: “It is the strength within communities, inspired by a shared responsibility to each other, which has contributed in great part to our victories over HIV/Aids. Today, we need that strength more than ever to beat the colliding epidemics of HIV/Aids and Covid-19.”