On Wednesday, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World Population Day. The day was instituted in 1989 by the Governing Council of the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and inspired by public interest in the Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987 (the estimated date on which the world’s population hit nearly five billion people.) While it originally focuses on global population issues such as family planning, maternal health, gender quality, poverty and human rights, HIV silently comes along with each of these. Did you know?
The theme for this year is, ‘Family Planning is a Human Right’. As the Governing Council aims at paying great attention towards the reproductive health problems of the community, as the leading cause of ill health and death of pregnant women worldwide, other issues such as HIV that affect sexuality and are hitting the population hard must be addressed.
Celebrating this day aims at protecting and empowering youth of both genders and to offer them information about their sexuality and delay marriages till they are able to understand their responsibilities, among other sexuality issues.
As we partner with the United Nations to commemorate this day, let us hold high, the sixth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of combating HIV/Aids and reverse its spread. Ugandans, our focus should be the youth, and mostly those who are married, as these are considered to be the prime group contributing to the increasing population. The other group (the unmarried) also actively engage in sexual activities, and this means a lot to every one of us in the country’s HIV response. Along this come babies, some of who are born HIV positive.
Despite the above, we should appreciate that it is a basic right of parents to be able to decide on the number and spacing of their children as stated in 1968, by the Tehran Proclamation, an International Conference that focused on Human rights and family planning. But what if these children are HIV positive?
The United Nations warns that a rapidly increasing population exacerbates existing problems, such as economic interdependency, the spread of diseases such as HIV/Aids and various other pandemics.
Philip Njuguna, a pastor in Kenya, has always said, “When the family is small, whatever little they have they are able to share. There is peace”. On the other hand, when this family is affected by HIV, even the little cannot do a miracle. For instance, the UNAids Fact Sheet for World Aids Day 2017, indicated that there was only US$19.1 billion for People Living with HIV in low and middle income countries, including Uganda. These are part of the 20.9 million people worldwide, who were accessing antiretroviral therapy by June 2017. These resources are really little in consideration of HIV treatment cost.
According to the Population Council’s 2016 Journal Article, ‘Annual cost of antiretroviral therapy among three service delivery models in Uganda,’ the annual cost of the antiretroviral therapy per client in (USD) was $404 at Kitovu Mobile, $332 at TASO and $257 at Uganda Cares. What does this mean with a big population where majority are PLHIV.
Although HIV prevention programmes in Uganda are yielding positive results, the Uganda Aids Commission reports that there were 52,000 new HIV infections in 2016. UNAIDS 2017 estimates revealed a prevalence rate of 7.7 per cent among women aged 15-47, and 5.3 per cent for men 15-49, in Uganda.
Nevertheless, we can work toward achieving the objectives of Uganda’s 2015/16-2019/20 prevention strategy, which aim at increasing adoption of safer sexual behaviour and reduction in risk behaviour, scaling up coverage and use of biomedical HIV prevention interventions, delivered as part of integrated health care services.
Ms Nakibuuka is an HIV/Aids activist.
By Annet Nakibuuka