UGANDA yesterday marked World AIDS Day with messages urging men to go for voluntary counselling and testing services. The day is commemorated every December 1 to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic.
UGANDA yesterday marked World AIDS Day with messages urging men to go for voluntary counselling and testing services.
Health minister Dr. Stephen Mallinga noted that voluntary testing and counselling is an effective strategy to access preventive and care services.
World AIDS Day was adopted in 1988. It is commemorated every December 1 to raise awareness about the pandemic that has killed more than 25 million people world-wide since it was first discovered 30 years ago.
Globally, the number of people infected reached over 33 million at the end of 2008, while 2.7 million new infections occurred last year.
In Uganda, about one million people live with HIV/AIDS, according to the AIDS Information Centre, while 1.2 million children have been orphaned by the scourge. Last year, 43% of new infections were among married couples.
Quoting Ministry of Health reports, Mallinga said 25% of women in Ugandan have tested for HIV while the men lag behind, with only 21% knowing their status.
He added that 1,200 sites are providing testing and counselling services across the country. â€œMore innovative approaches are needed to mobilise male partners,â€ he noted.
He also called for more testing of new-born babies, saying only 20% of them have been tested. Mallingaâ€™s speech was read at Nakibubo Stadium by health state minister Kamanda Bataringaya.
Hundreds of people flooded the stadium and braved the sun to access free testing services from various health providers.
David Musoke, 56, who tested at Nakivubo, said: â€œI want to know my HIV status because the Government is urging us to test. It is not the first time I am testing for HIV, except that the queues are very long here.â€
Rose Namuleme, 22, said she had tested in August last year when she had her first child. â€œToday, I want to know the truth again,â€ she said.
The Uganda AIDS Commission director, Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli, appealed to the public to do testing together with their partners.
â€œA small percentage of people in Uganda know their status. I urge you to test. It is your responsibility. Access to testing, prevention and treatment is your right.â€
Florence Ndagire of the Uganda Society of Disabled Children called on the AIDS Commission to establish HIV-prevalence among the disabled.
Present at the function were UNAIDS Africa coordinator Dr. Musa Bungudu, PEPFAR country coordinator Dr. Michael Strong, as well as Dr. Elizabeth Mataka, the UN special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa.
HIV prevalence in the country fell dramatically, from a peak of 15% among all adults in 1991 to around 5% in 2001.
The Governmentâ€™s ABC prevention campaign greatly contributed to the decline. There has been a slight increase again in HIV-prevalence since 2006, up to the current 6.4%.
The availability of free antiretroviral drugs is thought to have led to complacency.
Ministry calls for voluntary HIV testing