UGANDA – Gilead Sciences, Inc., an American biopharmaceutical company, is funding a new HIV/AIDS prevention programme targeting Lake Victoria fisher folk in Mukono and Buikwe districts.
Gilead Sciences focuses is on researching and developing antiviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and other viral infections.
Known as STAR-C (Strengthening the HIV/AIDS Response in Central Uganda), the project will be run by Kampala-based Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre, a local non-profit that has over the last 30 years been working to deliver youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
The project intends to contribute towards the national HIV response among key populations in Uganda by increasing knowledge and awareness of HIV/AIDS among key populations in fishing communities.
It is intended to build community resilience and action against the HIV/AIDS pandemic amongst the fisher folk, female sex workers and People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Mukono and Buikwe districts of central Uganda.
Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre will over the course of this year focus its response among the fisherfolk communities in Katosi and Ssenyi fish landing sites in Mukono and Kiyindi and Busaana fish landing sites in Buikwe District.
The project is targeting the youth aged 35 and below, who are known to be disproportionately affected by HIV, especially adolescent girls and young women.
Throughout the 12 months of implementation, the NGO will provide education and increase HIV/AIDS awareness and linkage to care services amongst 8,800 fisher folk, female sex workers and People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in the two districts.
The project is also looking at building the capacity of the local health workforce and Community-Based Organizations in the provision of quality, friendly and responsive HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services in the targeted districts.
It is hoped the project will contribute to the attainment of the targets of Uganda’s National Health sector HIV/ AIDS strategic plan 2018/2019 whose goal is to reduce the HIV incidence and HIV-related mortality by 50%, by the year 2023 in addition to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 3 that among others targets, seeks to end the epidemic of AIDS and other communicable diseases by 2030.
According to a recent UNAIDS report titled, “In Danger,” women and girls account for 63% of all new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. Six out of seven new infections among 15-19 year olds in the region were among girls.
Meanwhile, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health, fisher folk communities on the Ugandan section of Lake Victoria have an HIV prevalence estimated to be between 15–40 %; much higher than in the general Ugandan population, for whom HIV prevalence is estimated to be 7.3 %.
In addition, high numbers of female sex workers are a common feature of these fishing sites.