On July 3 2010 over 700 people put Kampala on a stand still during a march from TASO Mulago to railway grounds at the city centre where they launched a campaign to end paediatric HIV/AIDS in Uganda. The march attracted different health civil society organisations (CSOs) working under the umbrella of the Uganda Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines (UCAEM) .
Dressed in T-shirts, and holding banners and placards, the activists braved a sunny day, chanting slogans that urged political leaders to prioritise HIV/AIDS treatment. The T-shirts, banners and placards had messages on them that read – ‘Over 67 children get HIV infection everyday, You can stop this today’, ‘Dear political candidates for 2010 elections –Healthy voters = Healthy nation. Prioritise HIV/AIDS funding’.
The vice chairperson of the Parliamentary HIV/AIDS committee, Prof. William Anokbonggo who doubled as the chief guest and chief walker, flagged off the march and gave closing remarks at the launch meeting. In his remarks, Anokbonggo thanked organisers and pledged support to the cause.
Other invited guests included; the executive director of JCRC, Prof. Peter Mugyenyi, the executive director of TASO, Mr. Robert Ochai, Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, HIV/AIDS activists, representatives from the Nabagereka office of the Buganda Kingdom , local artiste Bobi Wine, among others
Prof. Mugyenyi in his remarks, urged CSOs to extend the campaign to rural areas where majority of people are at risk and are more affected by the epidemic. Ms Lillian Mujuni, a staff member from HEPS-Uganda informed the gathering that this is a three-year campaign that targets vulnerable and poor people and will be extended to rural areas where a majority ofpeople live.
She said that the campaign, is expected to inform the public about gaps in management and implementation of HIV/AIDS programs and that this will empower them to demand for improved change from political candidates seeking for votes for the 2011 elections.
In Uganda, the Ministry of Health estimates that each year, more than 20,000 mothers who give birth also pass on HIV infection to their babies and a total of 33,152 children are in need of ART. Nevertheless only 42% of people in Uganda who need HIV/AIDS treatment access it. There are both implementation as well as policy bottlenecks that need to be addressed if this negative trend is to be reversed
HEPS-Uganda and partners are demanding the government and donors to
• Provide ART treatment to all who need it by increasing HIV/AIDs funding.
• Address low availability of paediatric ARVs to avoid interruptions in their treatment that is likely to expose them to drug resistance at such an early stage in life.
• Early initiation of diagnosis and treatment for all HIV-exposed infants and children, including administration of cotrimoxazole.
• Allocate appropriate percentage of total HIV/AIDS resources to achieve 80% coverage rates for PMTCT+ and paediatric treatment and ensure high quality services.
This campaign is supported by HIVOS, a Dutch humanitarian organisation and Global AIDS Alliance – both HEPS partners. They also funded the activity. HEPS which coordinates UCAEM, took the lead in organising this activity.
The other organisations that were involved include TASO, Mama’s club, UGANET, AGHA, NAFOPHANU, ANNECCA, PAU, NACWOLA, COFTU, ACREF UHSPA , AIDE , POMU, UYP, YAFU, Mariam Foundation, among others.
Other companies that provided support were Britannia Biscuits and Crown Beverages. MJAP provided free counselling and HIV/AIDS testing in which over 100 people were counselled and tested.