Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown at Y+ Magnificence Pageant Grand Finale
Serena Lodge Kampala | November 23, 2022 (As ready for supply)
Good night, I’m thrilled to be with you as soon as once more for the eighth Y+ Magnificence Pageant. I’m pleased to notice that that is my third pageant, having attended my first one simply after arriving in Uganda in 2020. The occasions simply hold getting higher and higher, and the contestants by no means fail to impress. I wish to thank the organizers for this unimaginable partnership as we work collectively to create area and platforms for younger individuals to advocate for their very own wants.
I wish to start by acknowledging the Uganda Community of Younger Folks Residing with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) and thanks for the highly effective theme of this 12 months’s Magnificence Pageant “We Have Acquired the Voice; Go Us the Mic.” I’ve personally seen UNYPA’s advocacy and skill to create a secure area for younger individuals dwelling with HIV to precise themselves, share tales of change, and construct coalitions to battle stigma inside their very own communities through the years. The 2020 theme was “Altering the Narrative,” and final 12 months’s (2021) theme was “Opening Alternatives” – that are vital constructing blocks for this 12 months. My interactions with UNYPA and the Y+ ambassadors have proven me first-hand how your group continues to alter the narrative and supply a platform for alternatives for younger individuals dwelling with HIV throughout Uganda.
Since 2003, the USA authorities via the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Aid (PEPFAR) has partnered with the Authorities of Uganda and Civil Society Organizations to spend money on increasing entry to HIV prevention, care, and remedy intervention in Uganda. Based on the newest UNAIDS estimates, 1.4 million persons are dwelling with HIV in Uganda, and persons are dwelling longer and more healthy lives largely on account of improved entry and utilization of HIV companies. PEPFAR invests in direct healthcare service supply in each district in Uganda, supporting over 1.3 million individuals with HIV remedy. The most recent PEPFAR annual outcomes present that over 165,000 individuals started taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, and over 91,000 individuals returned for PrEP refills within the final 12 months (throughout COP21), defending their well being whereas their HIV threat remained excessive. Moreover, practically 610,000 orphans and weak youngsters and their households had been served via family-centered complete companies and HIV and violence prevention interventions, all facilitated by the USA. These figures clarify that the neighborhood has put within the exhausting work, and it’s having an influence. As proof: the Uganda Inhabitants-Primarily based HIV Impression Evaluation (UPHIA) that was launched earlier this 12 months discovered a decline in new HIV infections by 39% and AIDS associated deaths by 67% from 2010 to 2021.
The well being programs constructed over years of collaboration among the many authorities, NGOs, and PEPFAR are additionally being leveraged to reply to different public well being threats as properly, similar to COVID-19 and now the Ebola outbreak. In each situations, PEPFAR companions and peer educators responded. Final 12 months, I shared with you the way Michael Ssenyonga, a earlier Mr. Y+, based the Kasese Community of Younger Folks Residing with HIV and throughout the peak of the pandemic ensured that meals and life-saving remedy reached greater than 700 younger HIV-positive individuals. I feel his glorious instance impressed others as a result of now healthcare and neighborhood staff are following up with people who could also be contacts of these troubled with Ebola and unable to get to the clinic to select up their medicines. These staff are tailoring companies to satisfy particular person wants, and offering psychosocial help via this tough time. As well as, regardless of the stress on the laboratory system from the Ebola outbreak, the framework put in place is managing the extra load to make sure individuals dwelling with or examined for HIV proceed to obtain well timed check outcomes.
I commend all of the well being care staff who responded to COVID-19 – get your jab; circumstances are on the rise – and who are actually supporting the Ebola response. Their interventions make sure that there are survivors and so they assist to mitigate additional unfold of this illness. We must always all bear in mind, nevertheless, and share with our communities, that there’s nonetheless a threat of Ebola Virus (EVD), particularly because the festive seasons nears and other people take into consideration journey. Anybody who has contact with an individual who has signs of EVD ought to comply with Ministry of Well being steering for early screening to look after themselves and defend others. The sooner you obtain remedy, the higher the end result. We frequently focus on stigma because it pertains to HIV/AIDS. Let’s not ignore the influence of health-related stigma and discrimination. We have to welcome survivors of this critical sickness – 79 to this point – again into our communities and guarantee they’ve the help they want.
Regardless of the declining developments in new infections and AIDS associated deaths I simply talked about, it’s not but time to have a good time. The epidemic continues to be extreme and impacts people of all ages and genders, however with differing influence amongst completely different populations. Younger individuals ages 10-24 stay extra weak to HIV an infection, with 43% of the brand new HIV infections occurring on this age group. Out of the 1.4 million individuals at present dwelling with HIV, 50,000 are younger males and 120,000 are younger ladies ages 15-24. In 2021, there have been 20,000 new HIV infections inside this similar age group, of which 15,000 had been amongst adolescent ladies and younger ladies and 5,000 amongst boys and younger males. There have been 6,000 new infections amongst youngsters between 0-14 years. All of those information reinforce the very actual want for UNYPA’s initiative, particularly as we navigate an surroundings that continues to see adolescent ladies and younger ladies at excessive threat for early being pregnant, weak to gender-based violence, HIV an infection, and HIV remedy failure.
We additionally acknowledge that every one of those numbers characterize individuals, our relations and associates, and I’ve valued the chance hear immediately from younger individuals about their experiences with HIV. In February, I acquired a Valentine’s Day go to from UNYPA ambassadors, and listened to the unimaginable life experiences of a number of younger individuals right here at the moment. On a go to to Oyam District, I realized concerning the day by day trials and small wins from a gaggle of younger peer leaders who had been devoted to decreasing stigma and worry of initiating HIV remedy of their neighborhood. And most lately, I attended the Nationwide HIV and AIDS Symposium, the place I used to be duly impressed by Ruth Awori’s Awar-Lee MC abilities and had the chance to listen to from sturdy civil society advocates who emphasised the significance of offering accessible companies for all, together with individuals with disabilities. The present variations in HIV testing, infections, care and remedy spotlight the necessity to focus efforts on ending inequalities between younger individuals and adults.
It’s nonetheless potential to finish AIDS by 2030. 4 many years of Uganda’s game-changing scientific breakthroughs and program expertise have given all of us the information we have to accomplish this purpose. Making use of a person-centered service supply framework, along with dedicated stewardship by authorities, centered and environment friendly funding, and the keenness of younger individuals to advocate for needs-based service supply, can provoke coverage makers, growth companions, civil society, and communities in direction of the options that may scale back the variety of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. PEPFAR is reimagining its strategic path to finish the HIV pandemic and sustainably strengthen public well being programs. Our strategic path will probably be carefully coordinated and aligned with the brand new “World AIDS Technique 2021-2026: Ending inequalities, Ending AIDS,” which was launched by UNAIDS and adopted by all PEPFAR international locations.
Because the dialogue at the moment is especially centered on amplifying the voices of younger individuals to advocate for his or her wants, I wish to emphasize that PEPFAR stays deeply dedicated to making sure all ages, genders, and inhabitants teams in danger for HIV an infection obtain data-driven and evidence-based, equitable, people-centered, and gender-affirmative HIV prevention and remedy companies. We’re conscious that pandemics don’t have an effect on all individuals uniformly, as underscored by the key fairness gaps that persist for adolescent ladies and younger ladies (AGYW) and youngsters. We are going to double our present efforts to deliberately prioritize these teams by accelerating our efforts to successfully and effectively obtain sturdy viral load suppression and scale back incidence.
Noting that youth are probably the most technologically related age group, with 71% of the worldwide inhabitants on-line in contrast with 48% of the whole inhabitants, remedy adherence actions and differentiated service supply fashions focused to youth ought to embody new alternatives to leverage technological sources and improvements. Such digital approaches present a superb method to interact adolescent and younger individuals dwelling with HIV, each throughout and following the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to UNYPA’s app for peer help teams, bettering youth and medical supplier communications, and figuring out native youth-friendly companies. I applaud youth led organizations, like UNYPA, which have led on digital and neighborhood interventions to scale back stigma and discrimination.
Furthermore, with the intention to advance fairness in HIV prevention, PEPFAR Uganda has maintained funding within the DREAMS program, which stands for Decided, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Protected, increasing to extra districts and growing service protection inside present districts through the years. DREAMS is targeted on complete HIV prevention amongst adolescent ladies and younger ladies in 24 high-incidence districts and reached over 240,000 adolescent ladies and younger ladies this final 12 months via gender delicate, evidence-informed prevention applications together with curriculum-based behavioral change interventions, HIV testing companies, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) enlargement, schooling subsidies, socio-economic strengthening, gender-based violence prevention, and put up violence care. These interventions are grounded in communities supported by sturdy partnerships with authorities and AGYW-focused companions, together with youth-led organizations. I visited a DREAMS program in Wakiso in August, and what impressed me most was a younger lady, a former DREAMS beneficiary, who used the teachings she realized in this system to arrange and save for college which she began this 12 months. She stays energetic in DREAMS, however now as a mentor, serving to different ladies plan for his or her futures and discover their voices.
PEPFAR will proceed to collaborate with and complement the efforts of the Authorities of Uganda, and Ugandan civil society to maintain ladies at school, and stop teenage pregnancies and HIV an infection. There are excessive charges of teenage pregnancies, and 25% of adolescent ladies aged 15-19 years have had a baby or are pregnant. The varsity surroundings ought to function a secure area, and a spot the place youngsters and adolescents can obtain messages about HIV prevention. PEPFAR’s DREAMS and Orphans and Susceptible Kids (OVC) applications help in protecting youngsters and adolescents in faculties via offering schooling subsidies to adolescents on the verge of dropping out of faculty. Final 12 months, PEPFAR offered over 30,000 schooling subsidies to counteract the consequences of the COVID-19 lock down.
The lately concluded Nationwide HIV and AIDS Symposium, below the theme “Ending Inequalities amongst Adolescent Women and Younger Girls and Boys,” was one other step in direction of addressing prevention and chronic remedy gaps impacting our progress. On the occasion I noticed the eagerness of the neighborhood advocating to deal with the wants of probably the most weak populations. I had the prospect to talk with sturdy civil society leaders concerning the significance of recognizing the distinctive wants of individuals with disabilities, and the significance of providing equitable and stigma-free well being companies for all populations.
All interventions to construct again higher for youngsters and adolescents dwelling with or vulnerable to HIV require the worldwide neighborhood, together with program individuals, to be united by a collective need for equitable entry to remedy and crucial sources. The ultimate partnership and a willingness to hearken to the experiences of all stakeholders, just like the younger individuals disproportionately affected, the HIV epidemic will proceed to deepen within the midst of inequity. Constructing again requires us to decide to partnerships with organizations and people which might be able to innovate and coordinate extra resilient HIV programming, to maintain and catalyze actions. PEPFAR will collaborate with all companions together with younger individuals, authorities, and communities to dismantle the social and structural boundaries that maintain again progress within the world HIV response by addressing fairness for girls and ladies, intercourse staff, males who’ve intercourse with males, individuals who inject medication, individuals in confined settings similar to prisons, and LGBTQI+ individuals world wide.
As I conclude, I wish to flip consideration again to all of you right here, most particularly the soon-to-be-crowned Miss and Mister Y+, and the devoted leaders and workers of UNYPA. You embody the creativity and innovation it takes to maneuver us ahead on this battle in opposition to HIV. All of us are invested in seeing Uganda attain epidemic management. We drastically respect your contribution to that purpose. Tonight, on the eve of the American vacation of Thanksgiving when People wherever they’re pause to precise gratitude for household, associates, and life’s blessings, I wish to thanks for carrying the torch for younger Ugandans, for altering the narrative for these dwelling with HIV/AIDS, and for opening new alternatives. We sit up for seeing what else you’ll do together with your gentle as we move you the mic.