HIV /AIDS infections in young girls worry Ankole bishop

MBARARA, December 19, 2023 - The Bishop of Ankole Diocese, Rt. Rev. Prof. Sheldon Mwesigwa has expressed concern over the rising prevalence of HIV/AIDS among young females in the country.

During the 19th graduation of Bishop Stuart University at Riverside grounds in Mbarara City on Friday, Mwesigwa, who is also the Chancellor of the university, said the increased prevalence of HIV/AIDS is among girls aged between 14 and 24.

Mwesigwa said the Ministry of Health estimates in 2020 showed HIV prevalence among adults aged 15-49 years in Uganda was 5.4 percent while the prevalence was higher among adolescent girls and young women at 6.8 percent.

“When you ask why girls are more infected with HIV/AIDS than boys, they will tell you that men sleep with many girls,” he said.

He noted that girls, in particular, stand a higher risk of catching HIV/AIDS since 4 out of 5 new infections are among girls.

“This city has both good things and challenges, so our girls when you come to this city, you need to be extra careful,” Mwesigwa said.

The bishop also urged both the girls and boys to test for HIV/AIDS so that they could know their status, giving them hope that many people have lived with HIV for 30 years.

“Young girls and boys don’t be in the dark when you are educated, when you are enlightened, always go for medical checkups to know your status,” he said.

Meanwhile, the bishop also condemned the increasing incidents of corruption in the country, urging the graduands to live by the ethical values they learned at the university.

“Graduands stand out of the crowd and live true to the vision, mission, and objectives of this university,” he said adding that, it pays to have a good name instead of being driven by material gains.

“As you go out to face the world, remain steadfast, maintain honesty, integrity, observe ethics, and remain professional wherever you will be,” he added.

Prof. Kenneth Kagame, Chairperson of the University Governing Council, reminded President Yoweri Museveni of his unfulfilled pledge of Shs 3.5 billion towards the construction of the university's science and research laboratory, which was promised in 2011.

While addressing guests at the graduation ceremony, the Chief Guest at the celebrations Dr. Chris Baryomunsi who is the Minister of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance said that Uganda is one of the countries in the world that pledged to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.

“Being part of the global community, we have a theme of ending AIDS by 2030 but today is 2023 and we are going into 2024” he said, adding, “I add my voice to remind you that HIV/AIDS and the other sexually transmitted infections still exist.”

He said that the statistics from the government agencies show that HIV is still high in urban areas like Mbarara, and this is because people no longer fear catching the disease. He urged everyone to be committed to fighting the scourge.

“We managed to bring down the infection rates from 18.5 percent in the general population to 6.2 percent, but it has now stagnated at around 6 percent because people no longer fear the challenge of HIV/AIDS” Baryomunsi said.

“There is no cure yet for HIV/AIDS, therefore let’s be careful, let’s take all the necessary steps to avoid getting infected with HIV/AIDS and other infections,” he added.

Dr. Baryomunsi appealed to graduands not to risk selling their bodies for jobs and material gains.

“I know there is a challenge of unemployment, but young girls should not allow themselves to be abused simply because you don’t have a job or money, just be patient,” he said.

The Uganda Aids Commission statistics indicate that Mbarara has the highest HIV prevalence rate of 5.6 percent, followed by Fort Portal.

The minister also promised to remind the president about the Shs 3.5bln unfulfilled pledge to the university, saying the government will support the institution’s IT department. “Recently we passed a supplementary budget and I have been following that pledge. the money is being processed, just be patient,” he said.

1,512 students were awarded degrees, diplomas, and certificates in different disciplines.

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