Sunday May 25 2014

HIV prevention and treatment services should be easily accessible

By Irene Mirembe

The HIV/Aids agenda is back on, with the HIV Bill in motion and HIV/Aids related court cases being the talk of town, it is important to remember that communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/Aids. Access to HIV Prevention and Treatment for HIV/Aids should be universal and given priority.

High levels of stigma surrounding HIV /Aids in our communities prevent people seeking their HIV status or from seeking care and speaking honestly with their partners if they know they are positive. With new infections increasing each year, our efforts should be geared to making HIV care services available and in a stigma free setting.

Thankfully, the Uganda National HIV Prevention Strategy spells out the renewed plan to face this epidemic and this is what, as a country, we should do to see this renewed vision in action because actualising this will go a long way to address stigma thus reducing the number of new infections the country registers every year.
The starting point is for every one to take an HIV test so that they get to know their sero-status. There are guidelines in the HIV strategic prevention plan if one is negative such as; advice on safe sex behaviour, condom use and access to free safe male circumcision.

If one tests positive, there are packages for them such as access to treatment, and advice on positive living so as to stop the spread of infection.

Protecting your sexual and reproductive health is one of the positive living practices that need to be adhered to, this also includes consistent and correct use of condoms to protect oneself and sex partner from contracting STIs including HIV.

Discussing reproductive health options with the health provider in case one desires to become pregnant is a good lifestyle practice that clients can adopt. This coupled with always choosing the dual protection method like using condoms combined with other contraceptives like pills, IUD, to avoid becoming pregnant protects one from re-infection and being pregnant.

If a client living with HIV/Aids is pregnant, they should be able to access safe delivery services in a safe environment under the supervision of a skilled health care provider at a health facility near them
Another positive living lifestyle is delaying HIV progression by making regular visits to health facility and seeking the services of trusted health care providers. Taking the right doses of the medications (ART &Septrin) at a convenient time as prescribed by the provider is good.

Also seeking immediate support from people one trusts if they are having any trouble with taking their medication, looking after their physical health by avoiding behaviours that harm their health like alcohol or other drugs/ smoking cigarettes, is key. Having a balanced diet, exercising regularly and drinking clean safe water is a good practice.

Seeking psychosocial support from skilled counsellors/peer support groups helps people feel better, being actively involved in local support group to learn new skills and make life better for all people living with HIV in the community and always sleep under a long lasting insecticide treated mosquito net needs to be emphasised

Taking a shared responsibility to protect oneself and their sexual partner, encouraging them to test for HIV, being aware of ones rights as a PLHIV (right to health, dignity, freedom of expression and movement, privacy, confidentiality and informed consent) and accepting one’s HIV status, disclosure to their partners and family is key. Communities that support PLHIV access up-to-date information on HIV risk reduction behaviours from their peers and health providers to promote positive living.

Therefore, promoting a shared responsibility for preventing HIV among your partners, friends and colleagues for every HIV positive person is important if we are to combat this national tragedy.
Ms Mirembe is a Communications Coordinator at PACE.