Full speech: Ambassador Deborah R. Malac at the Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment Survey press conference

Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Aceng, the Director General Health Services MoH, Prof. Anthony Mbonye; Dr. Sam Biraro, ICAP Country Representative, our friends from the media.

Good morning! I am delighted to be here today, as we share with you, some of the key findings from the Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment Survey or UPHIA.

One year ago, in August, we convened at the Ministry of Health to launch UPHIA ─ one of many similar studies being sponsored by PEPFAR ─ the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, in Africa and elsewhere. What we are sharing with you is a culmination of almost three years of collaborative work by ICAP, Ministry of Health, Uganda Virus Research Institute, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, CDC and others who developed and implemented this survey.

Congratulations to the teams for this tremendous work.
Thanks to these efforts, and the individual cooperation of participants, today, Uganda joins four other countries (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and most recently Swaziland) to share compelling results that show how the U.S. government’s support is helping to control the HIV epidemic in Africa and other continents.

In Uganda, my government has invested almost three billion dollars in the fight against HIV since 2004. For this particular Uganda PHIA study, PEPFAR, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, otherwise known as CDC, has contributed over eight million dollars and we expect that the results from this survey will inform the response to HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

As we have heard, and will later get to read, these survey results show that Uganda’s adult HIV prevalence is 6 percent. It is evidence that our collective efforts and investments are not in vain.

These results also show that almost 60 percent of Ugandan adults with HIV have a minimal level of the virus in their blood. This is a marker of treatment success.

For this 60 percent, they will live longer and healthier lives without the complications of AIDS, and they are less likely to transmit the disease to their children or sexual partners. Again, we celebrate. Such findings renew our hope for an AIDS-free generation.

But we should not stop. The burden of HIV infection in the country is still unacceptably high. Women remain disproportionately affected by the epidemic compared to their male counterparts. Ugandan youth, especially girls, carry the burden of new infections. We need to ensure that the youth ─ the future of Uganda, move into their productive years as healthy as possible. People on ART need to continue taking these life-saving drugs, to protect their own health and reduce the risk of further disease transmission.

The UPHIA findings highlight some of our strengths and successes in HIV programming and also identify critical gaps that need to be addressed.

I ask that our friends from the media here today highlight these great results and the areas that need more attention to guide policy makers, health implementers and the public to play their part to fight HIV.

There is always a need for more funding, but we can use the funds we have more efficiently. Investigate the wrongs that undermine health service delivery for the ordinary Ugandan. Health staffing will always be constrained, but we can aim to properly support health providers to save more lives. And let’s raise awareness about available services for Ugandans ─ so they don’t perish because of ignorance.

My government is committed to supporting the people of Uganda, to scale up proven interventions for sustainable HIV epidemic control.

In closing, I commend Uganda and the survey teams for successfully conducting the UPHIA study. I’m convinced that public health planners, policymakers and officials from the Ministry of Health will use these invaluable findings to plan, target and monitor interventions for the population groups and geographic regions with greatest need to maximize impact.

Thank you.