BY GUEST WRITER
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed for the second time in the Ugandan Parliament after a few reconsiderations. The Bill among many things is a big threat to Ugandas progress in fighting HIV as promised under the UN. In 2015, Uganda joined fellow nation states under the UN to set new targets of ending AIDS by 2030.
This promise under the Sustainable Development Goals came against a backdrop of excellent interventions in HIV prevention that managed to bring down the HIV prevalence from an average of 18% in the 1990s to 6.4% by 2004 and 5.4% in late 2022.
At the climax of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late 80s and 90s, the world turned to Uganda for lessons on how to manage a problem of that magnitude. Top among our success factors then was the presence of strong and able leadership against the epidemic led by his Excellency President Yoweri Museveni.
By 2020, Uganda was among the only 8 countries worldwide that managed to meet the global milestones on ensuring that 90% of all people with HIV know their status, get on treatment and suppress the HIV virus within their bodies.
According to Uganda AIDS Commission the apex body that coordinates HIV work in the country, in its strategic plan (2020 -2025), the success of Uganda’s interventions lie in an all-inclusive strategic plan that is able to ensure that all those who need HIV prevention and treatment services get them.
Among these is what Uganda AIDS Commission plan refers to as the Priority Populations or the Most At-Risk categories of people. This category includes, Fisher Folk communities, Commercial Sex Workers and Gay communities.
However, with the new proposed approach under the Anti Homosexuality Bill, Gay communities or Gay persons living with HIV will no longer be liable to access the services they need in order to test for HIV, get on treatment and suppress their viral load.
Suppressing ones viral load is a recognized approach in HIV prevention. A person living with HIV who has their viral load suppressed will not be able to pass on the virus to someone else.
According statistics from Uganda AIDS Commission, Gay men account for about 13% of people living with HIV within the Most At Risk category.
Whereas it is not easy to easily establish the number of Gay persons in the country, the Review report gives a good insight into the numbers by looking at those who were reached with some HIV treatment services.
For example, looking at the number of gay men that accessed Prep or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis; this is medicine that reduces ones chances of getting HIV in case of any encounter such as rape, unsafe needle pricks, sex with someone you are not sure about their status etc.
According to the report, up to eleven thousand, seven hundred fifty (11,750) new cases of Gay men who needed prep were recorded. Out of these, eight thousand, five hundred fifty-four (8,554) were actually initiated on the treatment because they stood a very high chance of not getting HIV.
Locking all these numbers out of treatment not only violates their rights as citizens, but also puts many other ordinary citizens at risk of getting HIV.
Many behavioral scientists such as Dr Tyaba Andrew the National Academy of Science say that that the problem with Uganda’s sexual behavioral ways is that you find a straight man, married with a wife and kids but who is also gay over the weekends.
Therefore, a successful HIV prevention campaign can not be discriminative in nature otherwise all efforts being put else where will be useless. HIV cases will continue to rise everyday.
According to Uganda AIDS Commission, currently Uganda has about one million, four hundred thousand people living with HIV. The biggest challenge facing the HIV response at the moment at the number of new infections happening every day. Last year, the country recorded about fifty-four thousand new HIV infections and most of these happened amongst young people and young adults ages 14 years to 49.
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