December 1, 2000
"Uganda was one of the first countries in Africa to recognize the threat posed by AIDS to development. It understood early on the importance of long-term efforts in both prevention and care," said Dr Piot, visiting Uganda on the occasion of World AIDS Day. "AIDS is a long-term emergency and commitments to slowing the epidemic require renewal over decades. As Uganda has shown, there are no short-cuts to AIDS. The sooner efforts start, the better the chances of success."
Dr Piot said broad social mobilization was essential to the response to AIDS. "This is not a question of government action in isolation but a question of mass, sustained action. Every church, every village, every association needs to be involved in this epidemic because every church and every village has been touched by it." He was speaking at a major World AIDS Day event organized by the Uganda AIDS Commission in collaboration with the UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS in Uganda, an inter-agency working group on AIDS.
In Uganda, all sectors of society were encouraged to take action against AIDS and as a result, Ugandan HIV figures among certain populations fell significantly.
"In Uganda, we have seen major success. The rate of HIV infection among young girls 13 to 19 fell significantly over an eight-year period. Among teenage boys -- always much lower because boys are less likely than girls to have partners in the older, more heavily infected age groups -- the rate has remained roughly stable," said Michel Sidibe, UNICEF Representative and Chair of the UN Theme Group. An increase in the age of first sexual experience, fewer partners, and increased condom use have all contributed to this.
"Efforts are now being made in Uganda to address HIV/AIDS at district level to reinforce demands from communities and families for better information and care as well as to build their capacity to respond to the epidemic. Uganda's decentralized system makes promoting action at the district level essential," Mr Sidibe said.
Significant progress in both prevention and care are crucial to reversing the epidemic, and neither can be seen in isolation. Both prevention and care share a number of core objectives, such as encouraging openness, involving people with AIDS, and supporting voluntary counselling and testing.
The emerging care agenda across the globe takes a broad-based approach. All drugs need to be affordable, but they also need to be delivered safely and in a way that improves the chances of therapeutic success. So drug supply and distribution must be sustainable, and equal attention is required across the total continuum of care -- from home based to hospital, from treatment of infections to palliative care.
The Ugandan Ministry of Health is now developing a plan to increase access to the essential care package for people living with HIV/AIDS. Among other interventions, such a package would include providing voluntary counselling and testing, psycho-social support for people with HIV/AIDS and their families, and improved access to antiretroviral drugs and to medicines to prevent and treat opportunistic infections.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 3.8 million adults and children became infected with HIV during 2000, bringing the total number of people living here with HIV/AIDS to 25.3 million. Over the same period, millions of Africans infected in earlier years began experiencing ill-health, and 2.4 million people at a more advanced stage of infection died of HIV-related illness. Overall, new infections in 2000 totalled 3.8 million, roughly the same number as in 1999.