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Ugandan Doctor Calls For Increased Funding To Fight AIDS

A leading Ugandan doctor has urged the United States to maintain momentum with investment in global aids funding. Dr. Peter Mugyenyi also called for increased funding for the president’s emergency plan for aids relief (PEPFAR).

Dr. Mugyenyi, a pioneer in the use of antiretroviral treatment in Uganda, is the Executive director of Uganda joint clinical research center (UJCRC) – one of the largest PEPFAR - supported treatment centers in Africa.

He was in Washington as a special guest of Physicians for Human Rights and met administration officials and members of the US congress.

He told VOA’s Douglas Mpuga that PEPFAR funding was very crucial as the program was supporting UJCRC to give treatment to over 30,000 Ugandans. “It has also assisted UJCRC to establish laboratories in each and every region of the county. These laboratories have been crucial for Uganda to provide the most advanced HIV diagnostic and monitoring tests for patients,” he said.

Dr. Mugyenyi hailed the reception accorded to him in Washington, saying “what I consider to have been the main achievement is that I have been able to explain the situation of HIV/AIDS in Africa and the need for increased funding to support treatment for more of our people”.

He said increased funding would also help the country to do a more robust preventive initiative so that both treatment and prevention are aided in order to get on top of the scourge on our continent”.

“Our mission has been to explain to them (US policy makers) that the situation of AIDS in Africa is still very critical,” he added. “We have only 3 million people being treated with antiretroviral drugs in Africa and yet 5 million are in immediate need of antiretroviral therapy”.

Dr. Mugyenyi explained that Africa has 23 million people who are infected with HIV and every year at least one million added onto that number continue to need treatment. He said there is a strong case for increased funding. “If we don’t get increased funding, the situation of AIDS on our continent will get out of hand, and when that happens it will be more expensive to handle in future”.

Uganda has an HIV infection rate of about 6.4% compared to 15-30% in the past decade. Dr. Mugyenyi said although this is an improvement there are still one million Ugandans infected with HIV, 150,000 children living with HIV, and most worrying is that in 2007 there were 130,000 who were newly infected with HIV. “To put it in perspective; for every 2 people we treat 5 more get newly infected. It means we have got to strength treatment as well as prevention at the same time.”

PEPFAR was created in 2003 and provided $18.8 billion to support HIV prevention, care and treatment in its five years. Since its launch, the number of people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 50, 000 to 3 million, of whom 2.1 million are supported by PEPFAR.