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UVRI Wins Another Five Year PEPFAR Grant :: Uganda Radionetwork
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UVRI Wins Another Five Year PEPFAR Grant

Uganda traditionally receives US $500 million annually, facilitating diverse activities, including treatment for 1.4 million people living with HIV, a commitment ongoing for two decades since the fund's establishment by the US government, benefiting over fifty-five countries globally.
Dr Atwiine and Prof Kaleebu recognise long serving staff
The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) has secured a five-year grant extension, further fortifying its efforts in HIV treatment, diagnosis, and research, aligning with global endeavors to combat the HIV epidemic. Prof Pontian Kaleebu, the executive director of UVRI, announced the renewed funding at an end-of-year staff gathering officiated by Dr. Diana Atwiine, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health.

There were concerns within the health sector, especially among anti-retroviral treatment beneficiaries, regarding potential aid cuts after Uganda passed the Anti-homosexuality law earlier this year. This law, criticized by the US and other Western powers for its discrimination against sexual minorities, had raised uncertainties. 

Uganda traditionally receives US $500 million annually, facilitating diverse activities, including treatment for 1.4 million people living with HIV, a commitment ongoing for two decades since the fund's establishment by the US government, benefiting over fifty-five countries globally. The fresh UVRI funding channeled through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), aims to delve deeper into disease burdens, incidences, and patterns, particularly within vulnerable communities such as fishing communities, women, and sex workers.

UVRI stands as a cornerstone in managing the disease, boasting achievements in diagnosis, treatment, studies, and vaccine trials. Prof Kaleebu highlighted ongoing trials involving long-acting injectable CAB and Riplivirine drugs for individuals with high viral loads. The institute also contributes significantly to designing vaccines for various diseases, notably the HIV epidemic, alongside endeavors concerning diseases like Crimean Fever, Rift Valley Fever (RVF), and Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF).

Established eighty-seven years ago through the Rockefeller Foundation to investigate and manage diseases in East Africa, UVRI holds numerous accolades. Prof Kaleebu revealed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognized the institute as a reference point for immunizable diseases like Measles and Rubella in Eastern Africa due to its exceptional work.

Besides Uganda, the institute serves Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the Comoros, with plans underway to make its laboratory a reference point for polio sequencing, becoming the third in Africa. Amidst its pivotal role in combating COVID-19, UVRI continues to expand its diagnostic, research, and immunology capacities. Prof Kaleebu highlighted the institute's commitment to elevating researchers' education to Master’s and PhD levels, generating extensive health-related knowledge. 

Despite its fewer personnel, UVRI boasts superior publications per capita compared to Makerere University. Expressing gratitude for government financial support, Prof Kaleebu showcased new and refurbished infrastructures aimed at enhancing research work at the institute. While acknowledging the current funding amidst financial challenges, he emphasized the need for additional funding to recruit essential staff. 

Dr. Diana Atwiine commended UVRI, acknowledging its transformative impact not only on medical research in Uganda but also regionally and globally. Pledging further government support to propel the institute to greater heights, Atwiine credited the institute's researchers for placing Uganda on the global map through publications in prestigious international journals. 

Dr. Julius Mukwaya, Acting Deputy Executive Director, hailed the year-end gathering as a fitting conclusion to a year marked by significant achievements and extensive work. The celebration continued late into the night, with UVRI's scientists and staff enjoying a festive atmosphere, culminating in a dance following opening remarks by Kaleebu and Atwiine. The occasion also saw the acknowledgment of retired and long-serving UVRI employees, honoring their invaluable contributions.