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Uganda Marks World AIDS Day

As Uganda joins the rest of the world in marking World AIDS Day on December 1st, in Mbarara, I call upon all Ugandans to take an HIV test.

Knowing your HIV status is very important as it serves as a pointer to the services you can get.We should follow the example of His Excellency the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who recently tested for HIV publicly.

The Global theme for the World AIDS Campaign is “Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths.” Uganda’s theme for this year’s celebration is “Re-engaging Communities for Effective HIV Prevention” and the slogan is “Accelerating community action towards zero new infections.’

Benefits of Knowing your HIV Status

Today few Ugandans know their HIV status. Yet the test helps you make appropriate decisions and access right health services.

If you test negative, and the great majority of Ugandans are, you will be given the necessary information, advice and services to enable you to remain negative.

If you test positive, Government and partners will put you on anti-retroviral treatment for free. So do come forward and take the test. It is for your good.

Moreover, if you learn early that you are HIV positive, you will receive early the necessary care and treatment to enable you to live a quality life.

Furthermore, any pregnant woman who tests HIV positive early will be given treatment and assisted to deliver an HIV-free baby. Fathers too, should take the test because your baby needs you to be alive to bring him/her up. So you must support your wife.

For couples who are discordant, meaning one is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative, the negative partner will be assisted to remain negative, while the one who is positive will be placed on treatment without waiting for the CD4 cell count to go down.

Progress Made so Far

Over the past year, the government of Uganda has intensified its efforts to fight the HIV epidemic.The government is working though the Uganda AIDS Commission which falls under my jurisdiction, the Office for the Presidency. As a result we are starting to see progress, for example:

In 2012 it was estimated that the number of new infections reduced by about 13 percent to 140,000 compared to the 160,000 new infections in 2011.

Moreover, Uganda has put more people on HIV treatment in 2013 than those who acquired HIV in the same period. In 2013 we have been able to enroll into treatment 193,000 patients compared to the 140, 000 new infections in this same time period.The more HIV-positive people we put on treatment the more we shall suppress the viral load circulating in the community and thereby protect more people from getting infected.

Significant progress was made in putting 96 percent of the estimated 100,000 HIV positive pregnant women on free ARVs in 2013. This resulted in the reduction of the number of babies born with HIV infections from 28,000 in 2011 to 15,000 in 2013.Tribute goes to the First Lady, Janet Museveni, for championing a nation-wide campaign to have no baby born with HIV.

The new HIV prevention message has been disseminated to parliament, cultural leaders and local government leaders to pass on the message to their respective constituencies.

A pastoral letter which carries messages on HIV prevention and is signed by all the top religious leaders is already being rolled out. This letter is to be read to followers in all mosques and churches every week for a period on one year in order to reduce the spread of HIV.

I therefore ask all Ugandans to take an HIV test, like President Museveni and other leaders have done, in order to access the right health services.

Hon. Frank Tumwebaze

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