Uganda: Delegates Discuss
OF the 40 million people living with HIV and AIDS worldwide, 25 million are in the Commonwealth. The number rises by five million each year, Commonwealth delegates and stakeholders were told at an HIV/AIDS workshop at Hotel Africana on Monday.
The theme, 'HIV prevention Education as a Tool for Social Transformation', looked at what methods have worked, which ones have failed and the way forward to combat HIV.
Dr. Alex Coutinho, the director Infectious Diseases Institute, Mulago, who delivered the keynote address, said statistics show we are not doing well.
According to him, focus is so much on treatment and prevention is being negated. "If you left the tap in your house on and you found the house flooded, would you mop the floor or would you turn off the tap first?"
The doctor, who has been in the HIV fight in Uganda for the last 25 years, said ignoring prevention will not take us anywhere.
"Financial input in the fight against HIV has grown from $59m in 1986 to $10b in 2007, but we are still having 4.1 million new infections each year and 2.8 million deaths each year.
"Only 9% people have access to condoms, 12% adults have access to testing facilities and 11% pregnant mothers can access mother-to-child prevention services."
Milly Katana, the chief of party, International HIV Alliance, Uganda, noted that countries needed to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations to spread HIV-preventive education.
"Ordinary citizens, in their ordinary capacity and life can do much more in person-to-person contact education.
"They provide information and services, act as voice of the vulnerable and put a human face to HIV."
Katana said the Alliance trains people from communities and places them back as a link between communities and specialised services.
"People need to hear the messages from fellow people living with them."
She decried some governments within the Commonwealth, which divert civil society funds to other purposes
HIV-Aids and STDs
Health and Medicine
Civil society groups, Katana added, were competing with governments for donor funds.
However, systems were being reorganised, she said: "We are implementing a network model to responding to HIV and AIDS within the commonwealth."
The Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha, the chairman of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV/AIDS, called for integration of HIV programmes into the schedules of religious leaders as part of civil society.