Ugandans have been urged not to put brakes on the HIV/ AIDS fight as the country edges closer to the goal of ending the scourge by 2030.
Speaking during the third edition of the F.I.E.R.C.E awards organized by the International Community of Women living with HIV Eastern Africa(ICWEA) held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, Maj(Rtd) Rubaramira Ruranga , an renowned HIV/ AIDS activist said whereas Uganda has major strides in ending the epidemic, there seems to be stagnation in the fight.
“I am very much disappointed with the way things are now going. I thought by now there would be no new HIV infections. It is appalling that we now have 1.4 million Ugandans living with HIV. The question for why we still have new infections is not for me or you but the entire world to answer,” Maj Rubaramira said.
HIV AIDS is talking a toll on the economy. Each person needs shs400, 000 for the first line of treatment and multiply this with the 1.4 million Ugandans with HIV. How much money is that? Wouldn’t be used to do something else.”
Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha , a trailblazer when it comes to living positively with HIV could not agree more.
“It is true we have stagnancy and this has been caused by the inequalities of access. We have everything but how come some people access medicine and others don’t? The youth empowerment, skilling and accompaniment have some gaps. We have so many young people who are not in education, not in employment and not in training. How is that young person going to protect themselves from HIV and if they are already positive, how are they going to prevent transmitting the virus,” Rev Canon Byamugisha said.
He noted that this is a critical area that should be looked at.
“There are people whose daily life makes sure if they have to choose safe behaviour , they choose the unsafe ones that they say are the easiest, more popular unlike the safe ones because of the life these people are living without employment, being in slum areas, men are pressuring them. They can’t do otherwise apart from transmitting the virus.”
He mentioned there are over 200000 people who are positive but are not getting treatment which exacerbates the matter.
Lillian Mworeko, Executive Director ICWEA said the fight against HIV/ AIDS keeps changing and activists face new challenges.
“There was a time when stigma was real, when human right violation were real. These seem to be back. There is no way you say you are going to end AIDS by 2030 when you have unfavourable legal regimes. It is a journey we keep working to challenge and eliminate those situations but we keep fighting,” Mworeka said.
She said this calls for everyone’s participation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
During the event, five women champions in the fight against HIV/AIDS from the five East African countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda received F.I.E.R.C.E awards.
F.I.E.R.C.E is abbreviation for Fighter, intelligent, Empowered, Resilient, Courageous and excel for people living with HIV.
Milly Katana from Uganda, Rustika Banzi(Tanzania), Kuradusenge Pelagie(Rwanda), Marie Seconde Nsabim(Burundi) and Kenya’s Dorothy Onyango received awards for their efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS.
According to Lillian Mworeko, the Executive Director ICWEA, the awards are meant to reward women who have done great work to inspire fellow women and girls to join the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Our call is for the young girls to join the movement for the fight against HIV/AIDS. We want to have a new generation of leaders that takes up this mantle to fight this epidemic.”