eMTCT Launch by the first lady

eMTCT Launch by the first lady of Uganda in West Nile at Arua Municipality Friday 13th June 2014

The eMTCT campaigns were born out of the evidence of the significant burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda especially affecting women and their babies. The objectives of the campaign are:

  1. To provide a strategic platform for stakeholder engagement and mutual accountability to ensure effective eMTCT service delivery.
  2. To contribute to increased access to eMTCT services through community mobilization and sensitization.
  3. To promote eMTCT best practices through the demonstration and show casing of HIV, prevention, care and treatment interventions.

The First Lady of Uganda, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni, the champion of the eMTCT campaigns first launched the campaign in August 2012 in Ntungamo district and thereafter embarked on regional campaigns to create awareness about the need to eliminate children born with HIV.  This time, she honored her call as the champion to launch the campaign in Busoga region.

The theme for the campaigns is “Stand Out, Participate and be counted. Have a HIV free baby”. The sub theme for the campaign in Busoga region is “Prevent teenage pregnancies” which is a challenge in the region and like HIV, stems from unprotected sex.

Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni highlighted that early debut into sex among adolescents is responsible for high teenage pregnancy and is also a major risk factor for HIV infection and transmission among youth. She emphasized that people should revert back to the initial HIV strategy of ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful and use a Condom) for which Uganda is well known, as the best way of fighting the epidemic. This strategy allowed for a drastic reduce in the HIV prevalence rates in the 80’s.

She appealed to families to take up responsibility and educate children on pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. Parents should take up sex education among children and disseminate information and knowledge about HIV/AIDS and encourage the girl child to stay in school. “Children do not have a source of knowledge apart from school. Do not leave this responsibility to teachers” Hon. Janet stressed.

From the AIDS Indicator Survey conducted in 2011, the HIV prevalence in the country stands at 7.3%.  The epidemic is higher among women, at 8.2% compared to men at 6.1%.  In Busoga, findings from that Survey indicate that HIV prevalence stands at 5.8% (Women 6.7%, Men 4.8%).  The aim of this campaign has been to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in general but also to focus on the vulnerable children who get infected through Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission.

The First Lady used this opportunity to appeal for male involvement in the reproductive health of their spouses. “Every adult should become a soldier to fight this epidemic” the First Lady appealed to the gathering in the region.

Hon. Janet Museveni advised that to eliminate mother to child transmission, there needs to be focus on the four prongs of the EMTCT program. These include:

  1. Primary prevention of HIV infection in the general population and especially in women of reproductive age
  2. Provision of Family Planning services to HIV infected women
  3.  Provision of lifelong ARVs to HIV-infected pregnant and lactating women – Option B+
  4.  Provision of comprehensive care to HIV-infected children and women as well as their families.

The First Lady added that religious leaders should lead by example, guide and counsel the community members and should heal the mindset of individuals by reinforcing healthy families.

“We must continue to call upon the women, men and families of the Busoga region and Uganda as a whole, to avail themselves of the services of EMTCT fully” she emphasized that the pregnant women must fulfill the following:

  1. Attend ante-natal clinics for all four required times during pregnancy;
  2. Get tested for HIV during pregnancy;
  3. If HIV-infected, get care and take their drugs all the time;
  4. Deliver under supervised health care; and
  5. Test their babies at birth and as instructed thereafter.

Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that fewer babies are now being born with HIV infection. In 2013, 15,000 babies were born infected with HIV compared to 28,000 babies in 2008.  This number was projected to fall to 8,000 by the end of 2014, and it could be even lower than that because of the current scale-up. Many health facilities including Mulago hospital, Reach -Out- Mbuya, and many more including a number of districts, are now reporting zero new infections for consecutive years.

The Minister for State in Charge of Primary Health Care, Hon. Sarah Opendi noted that lack of parental guidance and law enforcements on early/child marriages, teenage pregnancies, health centers lacking youth friendly corners and poverty were some of the factors that attributed to the high HIV prevalence rates in the region.

She also noted some of the recommendations that could address the above problems such as promoting the use of contraceptives, sex education and continuous knowledge dissemination against HIV/AIDS and programs for income generation.

“Last month, we launched the Protect the Goal campaign which is essentially using sports and particularly football to pass on HIV messages and services. We are hopeful that through this campaign, we shall reach the youth and sports lovers,” she said urging the public to embrace the campaign.

Hon. Opendi recommended all mothers to take up counseling, testing and treatment services. “Testing is key and all mothers should test their babies for HIV after delivery.” she stressed. The challenge of late results has been addressed by the roll out of SAMBA II, a small highly portable machine that was developed to give instant results for the detection of genetic material of the HIV virus. “Different health workers around the country have been trained and sent out to facilities” she said.

The goal of this campaign is to contribute to the national efforts of achieving zero new HIV infections in babies born to HIV positive mothers by 2015.

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