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Uganda’s first HIV museum opens

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Pictures, videos, audios and reading materials of HIV/AIDS victims who passed away have been documented as a way of encouraging people living with HIV to remain on their medication and encourage others to shun risky sexual behaviour.

During the launch of the HIV museum, the exhibitors from different HIV/AIDS organisations said the purpose of the exhibition is to pass on messages of hope to those infected and affected by HIV.

The exhibition, under the theme “The journey towards ending AIDS: a History of HIV in Uganda”, traces Uganda’s history of HIV.

The HIV museum, which is hosted at the Uganda National Museum, opened to the public at no cost from Saturday, the World AIDS Day, until December 21. About 1.3 million people are living with HIV in Uganda. At least 73% of adults and 68% of children with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment (ART).

Currently, the new infections are 50,000 annually, having dropped from more than 90,000 two years ago. The minister for the Presidency, Esther Mbayo, called for focus and emphasis on HIV prevention with equal measures as is the case with care and treatment.

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“We need to turn off the tap of new HIV infections and put all HIV-positive people on treatment,”

Mbayo noted, adding that by doing so, the country would be able to end AIDS as a public health concern by 2030. In the late 1980s, up to 30% of Ugandans were reported to have contracted the HIV. The national prevalence rate has since reduced to 6.2%, an achievement attributed largely to the country’s political goodwill. Under the Presidential Fast Track Initiative,

Uganda’s focus is to achieve epidemic control and eliminate AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. According to Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the head of the AIDS Control Programme at the Ministry of Health, ARVs have been a key component in the ministry’s combination prevention strategy against HIV.

“It is a combination of ARVs, condoms, PMTCT (prevention of mother-tochild transmission) and other behavioural strategies, including the traditional abstinence and being faithful, which have reduced the incidences,” he said.

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The Irish Ambassador to Uganda, William Carlos, highlighted the need to increase domestic funding towards HIV/AIDs response, noting that 90% of the HIV response in Uganda is funded by donors.

“We welcome the recent passing of the AIDS Trust Fund Bill by Parliament, but we must now ensure that money follows. “We must also seek efficiencies by promoting integrated sexual and reproductive health services delivered by strong health systems,’’ Carlos said.

The Ambassador also called for more efforts in stambping out stigma among young people in Uganda, which he said remains high. He said Ireland supported the exhibition because it is one of the efforts aimed at reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence. “Ireland invests almost a quarter of its five-year budget to support Uganda in its HIV response.

“Our five-year strategy targets HIV/AIDS through the UN joint support programme led by UNAIDS, other UN agencies, civil society and local government. The Embassy provides direct support to the Uganda AIDS Commission for co-ordination of the HIV response,’’ he reaffirmed.