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Rakai District Gets Global Nod for Reducing HIV Related Deaths

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The Rakai Health Sciences Program (RHSP), the research entity where the first studies to establish the presence of HIV in Uganda were carried out in the 1980s was recognized for enabling adoption of new interventions such as Medical Male Circumcision and enrolling people on treatment immediately after testing positive since studies that confirmed efficacy was done there.
A map indicating areas that have contributed immensely to the HIV fight
Rakai district, in South-Central Uganda, has been recognized for contributing to dramatic reductions in HIV incidence and mortality and providing a roadmap to ending the epidemic globally. 

The Rakai Health Sciences Program (RHSP), the research entity where the first studies to establish the presence of HIV in Uganda were carried out in the 1980s was recognized for enabling adoption of new interventions such as Medical Male Circumcision and enrolling people on treatment immediately after testing positive since studies that confirmed efficacy was done there.  

The details of what interventions these places took to reduce infections were detailed in a new report, ‘Translating Progress into Success to End the AIDS Epidemic’ released at the ongoing International Aids Society conference in Mexico. 

“Rakai was the site of early research establishing the benefits of VMMC, leading to early uptake of VMMC in Rakai. Rakai’s progress could be further accelerated by the elimination of punitive laws affecting key populations in Uganda and greater uptake of PrEP,” the report indicates. 

Other places that were recognized include Thailand, Malawi, New South Wales-Australia, London-England and San-Francisco-United States. They were all commended for doing work that has helped in reducing new HIV diagnoses and HIV related deaths through a combination of biomedical, policy, structural and rights-based interventions.   The report indicates that while success was achieved in different ways in each location, taken together they demonstrate the gains that can be realized on a global scale. 

However, the common contributors for lowering disease incidence and mortality across all the six locations  include campaigns to encourage HIV testing, particularly among groups that are most affected, free and easy access to treatment at the time of diagnosis with HIV, scale-up of evidence-based HIV prevention, such as voluntary medical male circumcision, pre-exposure prophylaxis and harm reduction, concerted efforts to provide human rights-based services and social supports alongside programmes to fight stigma and discrimination. 

Chris Collins, President of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the agency that published the report said that the report provides a new narrative in the fight against HIV. 

“Ending the epidemic isn’t an insurmountable challenge but a question of putting the evidence to work and scaling access, particularly for those most at risk. It won’t be easy anywhere, but it is possible everywhere.