It’s been quite some time since I posted a blog about my work at Inter Religious Council of Uganda. Its not because I wasn’t working, no. I just wasn’t sure of what to share with you. When I returned from US IRCU was restructuring and a lot of things changed and are still changing. For instance, I was assigned a new office from HIV Program work a Communication and Documentation Specialist, a department that never existed at IRCU. It’s been a long and tough transition, I confess!
However, taking on the new responsibility was not a big deal, my only challenge was that I’m leaving the HIV Prevention Program without much impact in terms of its funding. Like at national and global level, HIV prevention awareness program is the least funded at IRCU compared to Care and treatment and Orphans and Vulnerable Children support programs. This is unfortunate especially in a country where approximately 135,000 people get HIV infection every year! Good thing is many other partners were similarly concerned.
In collaboration with Uganda AIDS Commission, UNAIDS, and Christian Aid, IRCU organized a High Level Consultative Advocacy Conference for Senior Religious Leaders on HIV Prevention and Maternal Health in Uganda. During the planning meeting of which I was part, other partners picked interest and came on board. UNFPA felt it a great opportunity to partner with us on maternal health issues, while Irish Aid found it a great forum to bring in issues of Gender Based Violence.
The objectives of the conference were:
To review the current HIV and AIDS situation and religious leaders’ efforts in HIV and AIDS awareness raising, behaviour change induction, demand creation and satisfaction for HIV and AIDS prevention services in Uganda;
To agree on key messages and practical leadership interventions that will effectively counteract the stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and mis-action (SSDDIM) that still inhibit enhanced HIV prevention, effective care and timely treatment;
To reach consensus on leadership commitments and messages that will drastically reduce the sexual transmission of HIV, mother-to-child transmission and other non-sexual HIV transmission modes in the faith community context in line with the current evidence; and
To agree on how to address maternal health and family planning within the faith-based networks as well as context appropriate to service delivery.
The expected outcome of the conference was the launch the national HIV and AIDS response that integrates maternal health and reproductive health issues for religious communities/FBOs in Uganda that is effective in halting and eventually overcoming HIV and AIDS and maternal related deaths.
Over 300 participants including senior religious leaders, civil society organizations, government officials and various development partners attended. To me the conference was a huge success! It was a call for revitalized efforts among all players to make HIV prevention a priority. Secondly the call went beyond HIV prevention to maternal health and gender based violence issues which is great! At the end of the conference a number of resolutions where agreed on (follow this link: www.ircu.or.ug) and hopefully they will be implemented.
It’s been a long but positive transition for me. Now that the advocacy conference is over, and that HIV prevention attracted the attention it deserves, I feel happy and psychologically ready to take my new office head on. I’m grateful for the support from our partners and all those who contributed to the success of the conference. You too can partner with IRCU! The struggle continues.