Every year on December 1, the global community comes together to commemorate World Aids Day. It is a day to remember those whom we have lost, celebrate the lives saved in Uganda, and recommit ourselves to the continued fight against HIV.
Eleven years ago, Aids was truly a death sentence in Uganda. “Slim disease” meant no cure, no future, no hope. It threatened Uganda’s very foundation – orphaning millions of children, debilitating the health care system, and stalling economic development.
Today, as a result of unwavering US commitment, an Aids-free generation is in sight. The US.President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest health programme ever initiated by one country to address a single disease. Here in Uganda, the American people have invested over $2.6 billion dollars – that’s almost seven trillion Ugandan shillings – to fight HIV over the past eleven years. That is nearly 80 per cent of the annual resources dedicated to fighting HIV in Uganda. More than 640,000 HIV-positive Ugandans live healthy and productive lives because the people of the United States support their life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART). In the last two years, PEPFAR support gave more than 88,000 HIV-positive pregnant women the chance to give birth to HIV-free children. This year, PEPFAR provided care and support for nearly 675,000 people. And this year, we supported more than 8.6 million HIV tests – enabling Ugandans to know their status and take responsibility for their lives and the lives of those they love.
Responsibility for the fight against HIV rests with all of us, and it is critical for national stakeholders, including all Ugandans to make a greater commitment to financing the response. Donors simply cannot continue to fund 87 per cent of the response to HIV in Uganda. PEPFAR funding levels in Uganda have remained stable to date, but the combined resources from PEPFAR and the Global Fund must be supplemented to fully support Uganda’s aggressive scale-up goals for ART.
A very important step in the right direction is the establishment of the HIV Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is a positive demonstration of Uganda’s commitment to increasing domestic funding for the fight against HIV. Now it is essential that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development move quickly and transparently to establish and manage the fund and ensure that resources are targeted toward high-impact interventions and key populations that will control the epidemic and maximise the impact of every shilling invested.
Meanwhile, as part of our public health partnership with Uganda, the United States will more strategically focus our energy and resources on those Ugandans at greatest risk for infection, including the highest prevalence districts and key populations. We will maintain our support for high-impact interventions such as preventing mother-to-child transmission and ART – interventions that will control the HIV epidemic. And we will continue our investments to build capacity in the health care system, benefitting not just the HIV response, but Uganda’s ability to effectively and sustainably respond to all public health challenges.
Today, as we reflect on the profound impact HIV has made on the lives of millions of people around the world and right here in Uganda, it’s important to concentrate on the future. Creating an Aids-free generation is a shared responsibility and we all have a role to play, including the leadership of Uganda, the Aids development partners, UNAIDS, civil society, people living with HIV, faith-based organisations, the private sector, and the Global Fund. Together, we will make the dream of an Aids-free generation a reality.
Scott H. DeLisi is the US Ambassador to Uganda
SOURCE: Daily Monitor