Implementing Partner: Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU)
Reporting period: December 2017
HEJNU: New strategies on combating HIV / AIDS
ACTIVITY: Science café to facilitate dissemination of information concerning the new and innovative strategies that can be adopted in the fight against HIV / AIDS.
The activity was a science café held as part of the process of developing an ongoing dialogue between journalist and advocates, policymakers, and dissemination of the information to the public through various media houses. Representatives attended the science café from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Uganda AIDS Commission, Reach a Hand Uganda, UNYPA and members of the press.
OBJECTIVE OF THE ACTIVITY
To equip journalists with all the relevant information concerning some new and innovative strategies that can be adopted in the fight against HIV / AIDS.
Moderator: Esther Nakkazi
The moderator introduced the Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) to the audience and explained the format in which science café operates to the new participants.
She urged the journalists to ask relevant questions plus statistical data and ensure that actual statistics as given by the experts are published so the public is informed about some of the new and innovative strategies that are being adopted in the fight against HIV / AIDS.
Theme: New and innovative strategies that can be adopted in the fight against HIV / AIDS.
Presenter 1: Mr. Huzairu Nyanzi, (MR. Y+) and Team, UNYPA Advocates
Mr. Nyanzi introduced the new “Presidential Handbook” to fast-track initiatives in the fight against HIV and according to the handbook, current statistics show that 60% of men in Uganda have been tested and 52% enrolled on treatment.
It published in the handbook that Uganda has registered reductions in new infections from 135,000 in 2010 to approximately 60,000 by 2016, in men and women. Additionally, new infections among children dropped from 26,000 in 2010 to 4000 in 2016 and of the 1.4 million people living with HIV, 1,041,000 people are enrolled in care and 980,954 on antiretroviral therapy.
It is hoped that this initiative will be key to achieving the 90-90-90 UNAIDS targets, which project that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and lastly 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
He added that the challenges faced in the past strategy will be addressed with five new strategies that include;
- Engaging men in HIV prevention and closing the tap on new infections particularly among adolescent girls and young women;
- Accelerating implementation of test and treat and attainment of 90-90-90 targets particularly among men and young people;
- Consolidating progress on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV;
- Ensuring financial sustainability for the HIV response;
- Ensuring institutional effectiveness for a well-coordinated multi-sectoral response.
He summarized by saying that the report, fast track to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, stipulates that if this approach is taken, nearly 28 million new HIV infections and 21 million AIDS-related deaths would be avoided by 2030.
Presenter 2: Dr. Nakkazi Carol, Uganda AIDS Commission
Dr. Nakkazi was thankful for the opportunity to speak to journalists about HIV / AIDS prevention and informed the journalists that Uganda AIDS commission encourages the public to go for testing and if found positive, the person should get onto treatment irrespective of the CD4 count.
She further informed the journalists that UAC wants to consolidate the current gains in PMTCT, adding that in 2000 there was 9% transmission rate that has reduced to 1% with approximately 4000 born annually with HIV. “We look forward to eliminating it and having babies born without HIV” she added.
She stressed the need to address the issues concerning funding that needs increasing. “The private sector is working on a one-man-one dollar policy on goods like beer and cigarettes for those in the Federation of Uganda employers in order to help raise money for funding the HIV response” she added.
She informed the journalists that targeted messages are currently being used for adolescents and key populations like sex workers, drug users and homosexuals to influence behavioral change and noted that when designing interventions, there is a need to address the social determinants of HIV transmission especially within the young girls and men aged 40 – 49 years since they are at the highest risk of contracting HIV.
She noted that stigma and discrimination should also be reduced because this is a major cause of depression and revenge transmission or else it will be continuous and stressed the need to introduce punitive laws against communities in danger to ensure that the viral load is reduced.
She advocated programs to target discordant couples and told the journalists that new methods like PREP for partners in high-risk relationships and PEP for those that get exposed to the risk of contracting HIV are available. “There are also trials for the vaginal ring and injectable ARVs to reduce on the pill burden” she added.
“We are also in the process of trials for panty condoms because of issues with the cultural acceptability of femidoms and this will hopefully enhance a woman’s control in HIV prevention,” she said. Additionally, men are also being encouraged to circumcise which gives 50% protection and on top of using condoms, they would be safer.
On another note, there are vaccine trials are being carried out by UVRI in conjunction with International AIDS vaccine initiative (IAVI) and are in their third trials and feedback will be availed.
She summarized by notifying the journalists that there will be a global acceleration to eliminating HIV and the roadmap for Uganda will be launched with national guidelines explaining how to communicate to different communities in order to eliminate HIV by the year 2030.
Presenter 2: Dr. Nabiryo Christine, Consultant Gynecologist, UNFPA
Dr. Nabiryo reiterated the need to take action. “Science has done its part so we need to take action at the policy level and with all the latest technology available,” she said. Targets have been set at 90:90:90 and journalists should report with physical experience.
She informed the journalists that 360 adolescent girls and young women get infected with HIV per week in Uganda. “This is a very high figure” she commented.
She also noted that children in the villages, especially girls, are misled into early sexual activity and insisted that the girls should be kept in school since when they are in school focusing on their education such distractions are avoided.
She then stressed the need for using an effective multi-sectoral approach where all government institutions play their roles to ensure that HIV is eliminated from our communities. “We need to take collective action and everybody has to play their role as an individual working together within your communities” she added.
She further noted that economically, our country and the population is losing a lot of finances because of treating HIV and urged the journalist to go and visit both the upcountry and disadvantaged communities and monitor what is happening there then take everyone to book and make them accountable for their actions.
She summarized by emphasizing the need for policies and affirmative action that not only targets HIV but also targets Sexual Reproductive Health and Gender-Based Violence.
Question and answer session
- Where is the “Panty condom” distributed and how has it been received?
- Do we have a system to ensure that test and treat actually works effectively?
- How far has the vaccine trial gone in Uganda?
- When was the PMTCT study that was referred to carried out?
- Do you think the targets set by the presidential fast-track initiative are realistic?
- What have we done wrong to cause the rate of infection among girls and young women to remain high?
- Is the “one pill a day” therapy readily available to Ugandans?
- How far have they gone with testing the vaginal ring?
DR. NAKKAZI CAROL
Where is the “Panty condom” being distributed and how has it been received: The panty condom will be worn by women and it is not reusable. For more details we recommend inviting Mrs. Kibirige, (mama condom) from the Ministry of Health to one of these cafes and she sheds more light on that.
Do we have a system to ensure that test and treat actually works effectively: The rollout is being implemented on a region by region basis and a major problem that we will face with the test and treat policy will be with linking the positive patients to care. The Ministry is trying to referral and counter-referral methods but like any other change, linkages are always a challenge.
When was the PMTCT study that was referred to carry out: There was a study that was done in 2016. The Ministry of Health also has a quarterly report from the ministry of planning and evaluation the sent out to the media and the Rakai Health sciences disseminated information concerning this issue in November 2017.
What have we done wrong to cause the rate of infection among girls and young women to remain high: The Social determinates of HIV transmission need to be addressed if there is going to be any changes in the rate of infection among young girls.
How far have they gone with testing the vaginal ring: So far the trials are at the community level and the person who can shed more light on this is the principal investigator, Dr. Flavia Matovu, MJU – Mulago.
How far has the vaccine trial gone in Uganda: It is at the trial stage as I earlier mentioned.
DR. NABIRYO CHRISTINE
When was the PMTCT study that was referred to carry out: There is a weekly reporting system that the Ministry of Health has put in place and it is currently being implemented. You can get any information concerning mother to child transmission.
What have we done wrong to cause the rate of infection among girls and young women to remain high: Technology is making access to everything much easier so it has become very hard to control girls in their teenage period. It has accelerated access to pornography and girls’ interaction with men leading to sexual encounters much easier. We need to take collective action towards this initiative if we are going to see any improvement.
Do you think the targets set by the presidential fast-track initiative are realistic: Just like all interventions are treated, targets are a factor that helps you achieve more. I believe if we do our best we can achieve them.
Currently, there are some new apps being developed and used for information sharing concerning Sexual reproductive health, HIV and gender-based violence and RAHU is in position to shed more light on this. This resonates well with the youth.
What have we done wrong to cause the rate of infection among girls and young women to remain high: Schools do not want disclosure because they think it will damage their reputation. This is not good for the students. The schools need to create clubs where the positive students meet with their friends and enhance disclosure so students can know each other’s status. Teachers should also engage their students, both positives and negatives and sensitize them it will help create acceptance and caution among student.
What have we done wrong to cause the rate of infection among girls and young women to remain high: The government needs to develop an intervention that encourages teenagers to communicate with each other. That way the message can reach out further and more effectively.
THE ACTIVITY RESULTS:
The participants from the various media houses received relevant information concerning the new and innovative strategies that can be adopted in the fight against HIV / AIDS and they were urged to disseminate his information in order to educate their readers, listeners, and viewers.
The science café achieved its initial target, which involved equipping the journalists with information concerning the new and innovative strategies that can be adopted in the fight against HIV / AIDS. The participants agreed to publish articles aimed at sensitizing the public about the fight against HIV / AIDS using the information and statistical data provided by the speakers.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND IMMEDIATE FOLLOW UP ACTIONS
- Journalists were advised to take time off and visit upcountry and disadvantaged communities plus their health facilities to gather first-hand information concerning HIV / AIDS prevention in these areas.
- Frequent publication of stories concerning HIV / AIDS prevention and advocate for increasing uptake of HIV testing treatment services in order to reduce HIV / AIDS prevalence.