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AN HIV FREE GENERATION IS POSSIBLE IN UGANDA: A MESSAGE FROM UGANDA AIDS COMMISSION DURING THE 2012 PEADIATRIC HIV CONFERENCE
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda has been on the rise. About 130,000 new infections occur every year and 25,000 of these are babies who acquire HIV from their parents. This situation prompted Uganda AIDS Commission with support from partners to review the current interventions and address the current trends. Accordingly, a new HIV/AIDS strategic plan and a new HIV prevention strategy have been formulated, launched, disseminated to key stakeholders and are under implementation. Elimination of mother to child HIV transmission is a key component of the strategies above and the Ministry of Health has come up with a comprehensive elimination plan to ensure that no baby is born with HIV by 2015. Ensuring that no child is born with HIV is the beginning of ensuring an HIV free generation.
The starting point towards ensuring that no baby is born with HIV is primary HIV Prevention which prevents the mother from being infected with HIV and later on infecting the baby. Our key message of BE FAITHFUL TO YOUR PARTNER OR USE A CONDOM IF YOU CAN’T RESIST THE TEMPTATION still prevails.
The second step is to stop all unwanted pregnancies among the HIV infected women. Here, mothers infected with HIV are called upon to seek family planning services from trained providers.
The next step is to ensure that HIV positive pregnant mothers do receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. The new approach by the Ministry of Health is to put all HIV pregnant mothers on ARVs for life for the benefit of the health of both mother and baby.
Another important step is the care for the HIV infected mother and her baby to ensure that they lead a normal and healthy life. This includes the special care for HIV positive adolescents as they go through this difficult transitional period.
The role of men in ensuring that mothers are not infected with HIV and that babies are born free of HIV is paramount. Men are therefore hereby called upon to support their wives at all stages of pregnancy, child birth and child upbringing. Go get counseled and tested for HIV together and know your status. Important services will then be offered to both of you depending on each person’s HIV status.
This year’s Paediatric HIV Conference is being held under the theme “Overcoming Paediatric HIV, an Achievable Challenge in Partnership” The conference is timely for the scientists , policy makers and implementers to bring heads together and come up with the best practical options that the country should implement to reverse the current trend of the epidemic and especially ensure that that all our children are born HIV free. The theme is extremely relevant because we must all work together in partnership if we are to create the required synergies that will enable us achieve maximum results from our current level of resources. Our response has always been multi-sectoral and now more than ever before must we strengthen our partnership and partnership structure. Government, donors, the media, NGOs and CBOs, Political leaders, religious leaders, cultural leaders, persons living with HIV and all other stakeholders must come closer together , each exploit their comparative advantage and play their respective roles in order to reverse the current trend of the epidemic and overcome pediatric HIV.