KAMPALA, –Uganda is set to become the first country in the world to be declared free of mother-to-child HIV/AIDS infection. The outgoing UNAIDS Country Director Amakobe Sande has revealed.
Amakobe who has been the UNAIDS Uganda chief for the last 11 months ends her tenure on June 30 and will be heading to represent UNAIDS in China.
Speaking at the signing of the UNAIDS and Star Time Uganda partnership to leverage better health in Uganda, Amakobe said the fact that Uganda has been able to reduce the number of mother-to- child HIV/AIDS infection from 30,000 in 2011 to just 3,000 by the end of 2015, puts it at a better place of being named the only country that has eliminated mother-to-child infection in the whole world.
UNAIDS and the Chinese leading pay TV channel, Star Times signed the agreement at the UNAIDS offices in Kololo with a clear focus of raising awareness about HIV prevention among the adolescents and young people with a specific target on men. Andy Wang the Star Times Uganda CEO said the partnership is aimed at working together to attain the UNAIDS global and national target of achieving the 90-90-90 targets by 2020 that will contribute to ending the AIDS epidemic in Uganda by 2030.
“Through this cooperation, Star Times and UNAIDS will partner in resource mobilization, advocacy, publicity and awareness raising for HIV prevention initiatives. Star Times will provide media support and outreach during the UNAIDS campaigns,” said Wang.
Amakobe said she was leaving Uganda very proud following the country’s remarkable performance in combating HIV/AIDS though more attention is needed especially from the men to completely wipe out the scourge. ‘The reductions in HIV/AIDS related deaths from 162,000 in 2011 to the current 28,000 and the reductions in infections from 100,000 in 2011 to 83,000 by the end of 2015 indicates that something is being done,” said Amakobe. Adding; “But the best performance is the reduction of mother-to-child infections from 30,000 to 3,000. This is very commendable and special appreciation goes to the First Lady (Janet Museveni) for spearheading this initiative.”
She said the signing of the partnership between UNAIDS and Star Times is very much in line with the President Museveni’s HIV/AIDS Fast Tracking initiative to end the epidemic by 2030, that was launched on June 7 this year. She said more efforts should be focused on having men go for HIV/AIDS testing, and treatment so as to achieve the 90-90-90 target set for 2020. “Statistics show that women are leading in as far as testing for HIV is concerned (80%) while men stand at 60% and adhering to drugs at 90% compared to the men at just 54%,” she said. Amakobe said the latest worrying figures that show that 363 girls are getting infected every week is due to the men who have HIV/AIDS who have never tester and have high viral load too. “The young girls are being infected by the aged men who don’t know their status and don’t want to start on treatment. Once these men are out on board, Uganda will achieve that target of eliminating the virus by 2030,” said Amakobe.
Reuben Twinomujuni from the Uganda AIDS Commission said government had kick started the efforts to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. “This is business unusual is as far as the fight against HIV/AIDS is concerned. The rate of death that currently stands at 28,000 translates to 77 deaths daily. This is unacceptable. Our target is to wipe out HIV/AIDS by 2030. It is our mission, so anybody coming to help us is welcome,” he said. He said the implementation of the Presidents’ initiative, to Fast Track the elimination of the epidemic by 2030, Uganda AIDS Commission has rolled out massive awareness on prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in all schools countrywide as well as rural communities. Twinomujuni said statistics show (567 youths), 363 young girls aged between 15-24 and 204 boys aged between 14-24 get infected every week. There are currently 1.5 million Ugandans living with HIV/AIDS.
Star Times that operates in 38 countries in Africa with over 10 million continental subscribers and 1.2 million subscribers in Uganda will use its digital waves to spread HIV/AIDS prevention messages to families at the comfort of their homes across the entire country.