New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: US Donates More Funds to Battle HIV

Efforts to boost maternal health and stop HIV transmission to babies by their mothers got a new boost with the US announcing an US$80m additional funding.

The money was announced Monday by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton at the 19th International AIDS conference taking place in Washington DC.

Clinton said efforts to end Mother to child HIV transmission are meeting a big huddle of women being unable to access places where they could get treatment.

"When women are identified as HIV-positive and eligible for treatment, they are often referred to another clinic, one that may be too far away for them to reach. As a result too many women never start treatment," Clinton said and added that the funds are to fill this gap.

"This will support innovative approaches to ensure that HIV-positive pregnant women get the treatment they need to protect themselves, their babies, and their partners," she said.

In Sub-Saharan Africa where Uganda falls, women account for 60% of the HIV infections.

Clinton said that her government is committed to stopping mother-to-child transmission and have invested over US$1bn in it over the years. In Washington DC alone which has one of the highest HIV infection rates, no baby born to HIV infected mother is HIV positive due to interventions since 2009.

"In the first half of this fiscal year, we reached more than 370,000 women globally, and we are on track to hit PEPFAR's target of reaching an additional 1.5 million women by next year." She said.

Clinton acknowledges that so many people all over the world have not been "satisfied that we have done enough". She, however, that her government is committed to ensuring emergence of a generation that is free of AIDS.

"Yes, AIDS is still incurable, but it no longer has to be a death sentence. That is a tribute to the work of countless people around the world - many of whom are here at this conference, others who are no longer with us but whose contributions live on," Clinton noted.

She said that the US PEPFAR programme shift from treating HIV as an emergency disease was intended to create avenues for advanced interventions that could ensure a generation free of HIV.

She however lashed out at some leaders who she said are unwilling to face obstacles to the fight against AIDS like government corruption in procurement and delivery of drugs or dealing with injecting drug users.

She said that the US is supporting high-impact interventions and has had to ka e tough decisions on what they intend to and what not to fund.

Since 2009, we have more than doubled the number of people who get treatment that keeps them alive. She noted that President Obama made a commitment in 2010 for the United States to reach 6 million people globally with lifesaving treatment, focusing on combination prevention. The strategy, she said includes condoms, counseling and testing, treatment as prevention, voluntary medical male circumcision, and stopping mother to child transmission.

She said currently 4.5 million people are supported on prevention treatment under PEPFAR and next year the remaining 1.5 of the pledged 6 million are targeted for addition to the treatment.

She called for inclusion of communities in the efforts to end HIV transmission and said faith based organizations and elders like grandmothers should be enlisted in the fight. Orphans and vulnerable children which are some of the groups often neglected should be specially targeted for intervention.

Other groups to target she said are those at high risk of infection who include female sex workers, those trafficked into prostitution in low and middle income-countries 12 percent of whom are said to be HIV-positive, far above the rates for women at large and men who have sex with men.

She also announced a new US$37m funding to target key risk populations. US$15 million will go into research to identify the specific interventions that are most effective for each key population. US$20 million is to support country-led plans to expand services for key populations and US$2million to be channeled through the Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund, is to boost civil society groups work to reach key populations.

Clinton called on individual countries to also commit their own resources to HIV/AIDS. She commended South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, India which she said have committed more funds to caring for their people infected with HIV/AIDS.

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