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Minister Balaam Commends Young People for Fight Against HIV/AIDS

The State Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development in charge of children and youth affairs Dr. Balaam Barugahara has praised young people living with HIV/AIDS for their efforts towards prevention of the spread of the virus.

Balaam, while delivering his keynote speech at the annual Y+ Summit held this week at Hotel Africana, stressed the need for all young people, mostly those who have come forth to declare their HIV status to the public, to collaborate and see to it that there will be no more new HIV infections by 2030.

“When we work together, and adhere to the HIV/AIDS workable proven prevention methods, we should have worked towards our goal of stopping HIV/AIDS by 2030 from spreading and claiming lives of young people.”

He added, “it is hard to live a life of taking medicine every day, it is hard to live a life of regret, it is hard to live a discriminative life in society, it is hard to live with HIV/AIDS, that’s why I am applauding you who have come forth to fight against the spread of this virus, and I will like to assure you, government is behind you with the same agenda.

Balaam poses for a group photo with the young people living with HIV/AIDS during the Y+ Summit in Kampala.

The Government of Uganda is passionate about young people and their development and colleagues let no one tell you that you are not part of this plan; every young person is eligible and is mandated to embrace government projects including the youth livelihood program, youth skilling among others irrespective of your health status. There is no discrimination with development.”

Balaam called upon youth-led organizations to consider designing achievement and motivational awards aimed at recognizing the memorable efforts by great personalities such as the first lady and Minister of Education Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni for her significant role in TASO and continuous lobbying of UNAIDS to fund HIV/AIDS prevention.

According to the 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) report, women are disproportionately affected by HIV. Out of 1.4 million people living with the disease, 860 000 are women and 80 000 are children.

“As part of the drive to reduce the number of babies born with HIV, Uganda has a robust prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme. It involves following up women of reproductive age living with, or at risk of acquiring, HIV from their reproductive years, throughout pregnancy and to the end of the breastfeeding period.

The greatest progress has been in Botswana, Cameroon, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe, where new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women decreased by at least 65% between 2010 and 2022,”states the report.

Ruth Awori, Chief Executive Officer Uganda Network of People living with HIV/AIDS cited the need for HIV positive young people to continue with the fight to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.

“This years’ summit running under the theme: ‘Breaking Barriers-Bridging Gaps,’ basically speaks into possible connections and unity that are some of the key aspects that work hand in hand to enable HIV prevention.”

According to Dorothy Namutamba, Deputy CEO International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS Eastern Africa (ICWEA), by December 2022, an estimated 1.9 million Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) aged 15–24 years were living with HIV, compared to 1.2 million adolescent boys and young men (aged 15–24 years).

“There were 210 000 new HIV infections among AGYW (aged 15–24 years). Women and girls (all ages) accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections. Globally, 4000 AGYW (aged 15–24 years) were infected with HIV every week. Of these, 3100 (82%) infections were in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

She revealed that Gender inequalities, discrimination and poverty deny many women and adolescent girls’ economic autonomy, deprive them of control over their sexual lives, and expose them to the risk of emotional and bodily harm.

However, due to different preventive measures put in place, there’s been a 49% decrease in new HIV infections among AGYW since 2010 (Globally), 38% decrease in AIDS-related deaths among AGYW since 2010. In 19 high HIV burden countries in Africa, dedicated combination prevention programmes for AGYW are operating in only 42% of high HIV incidence locations.

Namutamba shared highlighted the key findings from a 4-year intensive user-centered design project among adolescent girls and young women, Think relevance – not risk, reduction, think habit – not adoption, think relationships – not HIV, think needs – not demographics, think ecosystems – not interventions and think options – not preferences.

Namutamba advised young people to continue embracing both the existing HIV prevention methods including condom use, male circumcision, Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and new methods such as; Dapivirine Vaginal Ring (DVR), Long-acting Injectable Cabotegravir (CAB-LA) and Dual Prevention Pill whose End-user research and market preparation is still underway among others.

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