By Hamza Kyeyune
caption id=”attachment_25504″ align=”alignnone” width=”667″] UNAIDS Executive Director Ms. Winnie Byanyima[/caption]Uganda ranks among the top 20 countries with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, with an estimated number of 1.4 million people infected with HIV, according to Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC).
According to UNAIDS, three people are infected with HIV every minute globally, most new HIV diagnoses are concentrated in places where it is hard for people at risk of contracting HIV to find the medication critical to protecting them from the virus.
Eng. Winnie Byanyima said she had “very personal” reasons for accepting the UNAIDS job, noting that she lost her brother Bernard to AIDS as well as many comrades, friends and relatives and that she is guardian to children who are HIV/AIDS orphans. She added that “ending AIDS, is an extremely important social justice issue, particularly so in Africa where the epidemic is most experienced”.
With such passion and intense motivation to see the end to AIDS deaths and new HIV infections in the near future, Uganda, where Eng Winnie comes from, has an opportunity to close the sad chapter in the response history and open a new one.
Uganda can use the leverage with the new UNAIDS EXD to ensure that all those at high risk of HIV infection are offered preventive medication known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, (PrEP), a once-a-day pill that protects users against HIV infection. There are currently only about 400-500 users of PreP in Uganda, a number too small.
The development of effective therapies and better prevention have changed HIV from a death sentence to a manageable disease that people can live with for decades. The drug, used to treat people with HIV, also helps prevent the virus from infecting healthy people.
If community engagement and scaling up coverage and use of other prevention interventions such as Voluntary Medical Male circumcision, improved testing and connecting all PLHIV to treatment are delivered as part of intergraded health care services, certainly new infections will significantly be reduced.
Conversations with Insurance companies to cover the medication for PLHIV without imposing a co-payment on them is equally paramount to sustain the response.
The write is a journalist and CDC fellow based in Turkey