Friday September 17 2010

‘No HIV drugs, no vote’ campaign on

By Ephraim Kasozi


People living with HIV have started a “no HIV drugs, no vote” campaign ahead of the 2011 general elections to propel candidates to prioritise HIV/Aids treatment in their manifestos. The group, comprising people living with Aids and activists, said they would not vote for any candidate who does not have plan on combating HIV/Aids.

The activists made the declaration while launching an election pledge campaign in Kampala yesterday. The campaign will require candidates to sign a 10-point commitment form confirming their support in the fight against HIV/Aids.

Mr James Kibanga, the coordinator of National Forum of People Living with HIV networks in Uganda, said there is no reason votes should be given to people who will not mind about their health. “We don’t see why we should vote leaders who do not care about us. We need to scale up access to HIV/Aids treatment to ensure that it becomes universal like education and other services. We are saying no drugs! No votes!” Mr Kibanga said. He said a successful battle against HIV/Aids is best fought at the pinnacle of government through disbursing funds, commitment and leadership.

The campaign dubbed, ‘The 2011 Platform’ also seeks to ensure government fully funds the fight against HIV, end drug stock-outs, treat people and end paediatric HIV, end violence and promote women’s sexual and reproductive health. “The 2010/2011 national budget was virtually silent on the HIV/Aids crisis, yet only one-third of the people in need of HIV treatment have access to it, and more than 100,000 people are infected with HIV annually,” said Dr Stephen Watiti, the chairman of National Network of People Living with HIV.

According to Dr Watiti, new evidence shows that access to treatment is a critical HIV -prevention tool and also results in a 92 per cent reduction in transmission of the virus. Other issues the group wants addressed include; implementation of comprehensive prevention of HIV/Aids, equiping health facilities, curb corruption in health sector and increase overall spending on the health sector.

Although new data show that HIV treatment reduces HIV transmission by 90 per cent, clinics in Uganda are turning away thousands of patients in urgent need of treatment because of insufficient funding.