By Steven Enatu
Youths still pose the biggest challenge to viral load suppression in the fight to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 in Uganda.
This was revealed by Dr. Ronald Opito, the Center Programs Manager Taso Soroti Region project during the home welcome of the reigning Miss Youth Positive Uganda 2021- 2022 recently.
He said that many young people are still facing stigma in accessing HIV/AIDS related treatment noting that some children when growing up positive will adhere to their treatment but at a certain point in life as they grow start asking lots of questions on why they are swallowing drugs and others not.
This he said is a threat to viral load suppression which in turn leads to more HIV new infections if the young people stop accessing HIV/AIDS related treatment.
The antiretroviral therapy (ART HIV medicine reduces the amount of HIV in the body (viral load) to a very low level, which keeps the immune system working and prevents illness and possible new infections. This is called viral suppression.
Opito tasked parents, Peer leaders and all stakeholders to keep on sensitizing the young adolescents on sexual reproductive health issues.
He then asked the reigning Young positive (Y+) to use her position to advocate for the young people’s agenda in the fight to end HIV/AIDS.
“For those who are already positive, they should protect themselves from STI’s and unwanted pregnancies and those girls who are still negative, we should tell them that HIV/AIDS is real and it’s affecting more young girls than boys. As young as 15 years you find that someone is positive and this is due to some petty things which unfortunately sometimes our parents tend to ignore for example a girl may need pads and the parents fail to provide, here some boda boda will offer in exchange for sex,” he said.
Rubunah Nayiga, Young person living with HIV/AIDS and also the reigning Miss Y+ Uganda said that the 2030 target of ending HIV/AIDS is what she is going to embark on as the peer leader by engaging in sensitization with communities.
“Most people do not have the information, they do not know that there are preventative measures and as peer leader this is something I need to interest myself in to ensure that most young people get to know about this and they go out seeking for these services,” she said.
She said that some mothers especially in the rural setting still do not know that they can swallow their drugs effectively and suppress the viral load and give birth to children free from HIV/AIDS.
Ilaborot Emmanuel Otim, the first runner- up reigning Mr. Young positive (Y+) Uganda said that as a peer leader for the young, his interest will be in ensuring that the agenda of young people is put first in measures aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS new infections.
He said the position at which they serve is about being role models for other young people with HIV, on being able to advocate for their needs and to increase acceptance and understanding of young people living with HIV in society.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), continues to be a major global public health and development challenge and has claimed more than 35 million lives since its discovery in early 1980’s.
There were approximately 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018 with 1.7 million people becoming newly infected in 2018 globally according to pan African-med-journal research of 2020.
It is estimated that more than half of new HIV infections worldwide occur among young people of 15-24 years and up to a third of people living with HIV/AIDS are 25 years or younger.
The Uganda population-based HIV impact assessment indicated that HIV prevalence is nearly three times higher in young Ugandans aged 20-24 compared to those aged 15-19. HIV prevalence is almost three times higher among females than males aged 15 to 24.