A Study conducted at TASO Jinja has demonstrated the criticality of Viral Load (VL) monitoring in the HIV response for us to keep on track to end the HIV epidemic. This was highlighted during the first event of planned series of dissemination meetings of findings of a study on Long-term Outcomes on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) held on Wednesday 15th March 2017 at TASO Training Centre, Kanyanya. The research findings were presented by a team of researchers in the study; Dr. David Moore, Dr. Josephine Briungi, Dr. Mastula Nanfuka and Mr. Stephen Okoboi.
The World Health Organisation, the Stop TB Partnership and the Global Fund have highlighted the plight of over three million people infected with TB who are missing out on quality health care annually. In a joint brochure issued for this year’s TB day, they note that these are the poor, weak, abused, and stigmatized and most likely also infected by other co-infections especially HIV and AIDS and left to slowly and painfully wash a way to their death. This sad situation calls for a global effort to find, treat and cure all people infected by TB for accelerated progress towards Zero TB deaths, Infections, suffering and stigma.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders has warned that human rights defenders working on behalf of communities affected by large-scale development projects are increasingly being branded ‘anti-government’, ‘against development’ or even ‘enemies of the State’. Ms Margaret Sekaggya, a UN independent expert , noted this in a report presented to the UN General Assembly on Monday 28th October, 2013. She is quoted in a UN news release dated 29 October 2013 observing that Human rights defenders trying to help communities are "harassed, stigmatized and criminalized for doing their work”. They also faced threats, including deaths threats, and physical attacks. “But rather than being against development, defenders plan an important role in advancing it,” she highlighted
In her report, Ms. Sekaggya calls for a rights-based approach to large-scale development projects, which would include the principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation, protection, transparency and accountability, including access to appropriate remedy. “It is essential that communities and those defending their rights are able to participate actively, freely and meaningfully in assessment and analysis, project design and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects,” said Ms. Sekaggya. Such participation can contribute significantly to defusing tensions, she added.
“It is crucial that relevant information about large-scale development projects is available and accessible,” the expert said. A lack of transparency could not only increase the vulnerability of defenders and the affected communities, but also seriously undermine the credibility and legitimacy of both State and private involvement in such projects.
Ms. Sekaggya also stressed that, “States have an obligation to provide protection to those claiming their legitimate right to participate in decision-making processes and voicing their opposition to large-scale development projects.”
“It is essential that those who wish to report human rights concerns and violations can safely do so,” the Special Rapporteur said, highlighting that private enterprises and donors, as well as States, can contribute to ensuring accountability.
The International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO) has urged World Health Organization (WHO) to adopt a patient-centred approach to the post-2015 development agenda. This request was central to an intervention made by Jo Groves, IAPO CEO, on the agenda item: Monitoring the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the 132nd Session of the WHO Executive Board session in Geneva, Switzerland. This call is contained in the press release issued on 25th January 2013. The press release is accessible here.
The Philosophy of Positive Living
The philosophy of positive living is one of the most important innovations by TASO that has been adopted by many partners in the response to HIV in Uganda and other parts of the world. The philosophy of positive living is a TASO invitation to each of us to play our roles in defeating HIV.
Positive living in TASO is about understanding the implications of HIV infection and undertaking positive choices to prevent HIV infection and adopt strategies to improve one’s health condition as mechanisms to fight the HIV epidemic. It is a cross cutting practice essential for everyone; for people living with HIV and those who are HIV negative; for families, communities as well as institutions.
For people living with HIV, the package of positive living entails having the will to live, and embracing practices that enhance the quality and longevity of life and maintaining hope. In practice this means among other things, accepting diagnosis and adjusting to it accordingly by seeking routine/ongoing counseling, prompt medical care including Antiretroviral Therapy, ensuring good nutrition, having adequate physical exercises and rest, avoiding compromising practices such alcoholism and smoking, continuing to engage in productive work/employment and disclosure to significant others.
Positive living is also about adopting practices that safeguard self and others against HIV infection like using condom and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT). The reality is that for every new HIV infection, there must be an HIV+ person and when HIV+ persons, with support from all stakeholders, embrace these strategies, then we would be working towards closing the "tap” of HIV transmission.
Positive living for people who are HIV negative is about making and practicing choices that will keep one HIV free. The entry point to positive living and HIV/AIDS care and support is through taking an HIV test to know ones sero status. When you know your HIV status, following a judicial process of routine HIV counseling and testing, you are empowered to lead a responsible life that reduces risks and prevents any new transmission of HIV. A responsible life involves among other aspects, avoiding practices that compromise ones sense of judgment of potential risks such as alcoholism and drug abuse; practicing safer sex; avoiding multiple sexual partners and other harmful cultural practices; adopting tested technologies such as Safe Medical Circumcision, Pre and Post Exposure Prophylaxis.
The philosophy of positive living transcends the life of an individual as it also takes account of practices, norms and conditions prevailing in our families, communities and institutions. In this aspect, positive living means creating systems and structures that take care and support people living with HIV to lead meaningful, productive and happier lives while at the same time supporting people not infected with HIV to remain HIV free. Such conditions will only come about when all stakeholders; the Government (both central and local), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Religious and Cultural Institutions, Family Associations, Community Groupings, People Living with HIV, the Private Sector, the Academia and Development Partners, actively take up their roles in fighting the HIV epidemic.