Urban leaders launch campaign to increase universal access to HIV and AIDS services in Uganda
KAMPALA - A nation-wide campaign aimed at improving universal access to HIV and AIDS services in urban centres, has been launched by mayors and other local leaders in Uganda.
The Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa (AMICAALL (AMICAALL) launched the campaign at the 3rd Annual Urban Leaders' AIDS Forum that took place on Wednesday 19, 2014 at Imperial Royale Hotel.
The new campaign is expected to accelerate the country's efforts in HIV and AIDS, particularly the achievement of Goal Six of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the end of the 2015 - the year set for the attainment of the MDG targets.
Dr John Mugisa, Country Director, AMICAALL, said the campaign have a series of national and regional level sensitisation meetings and public dialogues on HIV prevention, care and treatment involving all stakeholders including communities, members of parliament, religious and cultural leaders. The campaign will also disseminate HIV prevention messages using print and electronic platforms including radio, television and social media. Street marches and processions, edutainment shows, exhibitions, roadshows, and a final report to contribute towards the Country’s UNGASS and MDG progress reports will also form part of the campaign.
“We aim to reach each and every person in urban communities in some way to enhance the urban HIV and AIDS response which is critical for the success of our national AIDS response” said Dr Mugisa.
Furthermore, urban leaders will be sensitised on the recent enactment of the HIV/AIDS related legislations such as the Anti-Homosexuality and Anti-Pornographic Act – and how these might hinder access to HIV services among some marginalized groups, with a view to identifying strategies to ensure unfettered and equitable access to AIDS services and other health amenities.
At 8.3%, HIV prevalence has remained persistently higher in urban centres in Uganda, compared to 7.0% in rural areas, according to the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey of 2012. High population density, mobility, poverty, lack of knowledge and awareness, combined with a lack of capacity on the part of urban authorities to effectively address HIV and AIDS have continued to fuel the epidemic in Uganda.
“We urgently need to reduce HIV infection in urban centres, which have become epicentres of AIDS in our country”, noted Mr Adolf Mwesige, the Minister for Local Government.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, in a speech read for him by Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister in charge of the Presidency and Kampala City Council Authority, welcomed the new campaign and commended the urban leaders for taking a lead in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“We are happy that many of you are now more engaged in accelerating the delivery of AIDS services in the country. Government is committed to work with you to respond effectively to HIV in your various constituencies”, he said.
A presentation by Dr Christine Ondoa, Director General, Uganda AIDS Commission, revealed a significant increase of HIV infections amongst married couples and young people. New research, she explained, shows that 47% of male teenagers and 60% of females have had sex before 18 years while the average adult woman has an average of two sexual partners in their lifetime compared to seven for men. About 67 % of married Christian couples have had extra-marital sex, with friends, former partners, as well as random acquaintances, according to the statistics she presented from a new study done by the Uganda Christian AIDS Network (UCAN).
“If we can protect our sexually active adults and young people, provide affordable and timely care and treatment, and social support, we can raise a generation of HIV free babies, and meet our development goals,” she said.
Wilson Kwamya, Team Leader, Growth and Poverty Reduction at UNDP, called on the urban leaders to continue being dedicated to fighting the pandemic and urged them to reach out to a broad range of stakeholders including the private sector to help accelerate delivery of AIDS services in the country.
Mr Musa Bungudu, Country Coordinator, UNAIDS, encouraged the urban leaders to use whatever resources available to sensitise communities to access HIV prevention and treatment services.
AMICAALL Uganda has over the past 12 years been implementing activities aimed at addressing HIV and AIDS in urban areas. Launched in November 2000 with support from UNDP Uganda, the organisation is part of the global network of local government leaders initiated by UNDP and UNAIDS to nurture and support the role of mayors and local leaders in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS, and to mitigate the social and economic impact of the epidemic in cities, municipalities and local authorities in Africa. The Alliance is currently operating in 13 countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Coted’ Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.