A game-changer in the AIDS response in the Eastern and Southern African region is the engagement of men and boys in order to increase their access to HIV counselling and testing and, if necessary, HIV treatment.
In the Eastern and Southern African region, men are being left behind by the AIDS response. Evidence shows that men are testing for HIV in far fewer numbers, fewer are on treatment and as a result, the majority of AIDS-related deaths occur among men. Health systems, which often prioritise women’s health, can be inaccessible or unfriendly to men and boys. Deeply-held beliefs about what it means to be a man need often prevent men from seeking healthcare services before they fall seriously ill.
UNAIDS, together with the King of the Buganda region, the largest Kingdom in Uganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, have embarked on a partnership to address these issues and mobilise men in the Kingdom to test for HIV and access treatment should it be necessary.
UNAIDS recognises that cultural leaders such as the King of Buganda can influence norms, beliefs and customs that impact on men’s access to HIV services.
In the Central 1 and 2 regions, in which the Buganda Kingdom is situated, HIV prevalence stands at 10.6% and 9.0% respectively above the national prevalence of 7.3%. Estimates for 2014 indicate that Central 1 and 2 regions account for almost half (42 000) Uganda’s annual estimate of 83 000.
In the last 12 months, in Central 1 and 2, only 1.93 million people have tested for HIV, of which only about a third were men. Among the men tested about 27 655 were HIV positive. At the end of 2016, only about 27% of the almost 310 000 people on life-saving antiretroviral therapy were adult males.
The “Gwanga Mujje: One million men” male engagement campaign will mobilise one million men to access HIV Counselling and Testing as an entry-point into HIV treatment and care. At the launch of the campaign, UNAIDS Director for the Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, Professor Sheila Tlou, conferred upon the King the title of national UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for male engagement to End AIDS in the Buganda Kingdom.
“UNAIDS is dedicated to continue to partner with and support the Kingdom of Buganda in this campaign to ensure we can reach our shared goal of Ending AIDS as a public health threat in the Buganda Kingdom by 2030.”
Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS Director for the Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa
“I am delighted to be a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador. I will use this platform to advocate for men to access HIV services in the Buganda Kingdom.”
His Royal Highness Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, King of Buganda