By Musah Lumumba El-nasoor, African NGO Delegate
The president of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, together with UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, launched the presidential fast track HIV situation room, a new tool that will be used to monitor progress towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. This was during the International Women’s Day celebrations on 8 March 2018. The concept, supported by UNAIDS, is envisaged to make data revolution a reality in the HIV response and as well, support the implementation and realization of the end of AIDS target within the SDG agenda.
The situation room is envisaged to show, real-time HIV service delivery data, producing a comprehensive picture and understanding of the AIDS epidemic and the HIV response in the country. It will also enable feedback on results at the national and district level programme coverage, as well as bottlenecks to access of available services. UNAIDS will be using this tool to monitor global progress and support national monitoring solutions to step up their efforts to reach HIV fast track targets by 2020.
How will it work? HIV Programme managers access real-time data from a laptop/tablet-based software, being able to drill down to facility level data, and measure progress continuously. They can also add new reports as they see necessary to take informed decisions and engage with other Programme implementers with facts. Countries can include any relevant data for their respective responses to HIV, however the commonly used are logistics management information systems (LMIS) data, District Health information Systems data (DHIS2) and community level data where available.
How beneficial is the tool? Lines of communication and information sharing from lower level centers like districts to central level ministry of health are kept open, including to other stakeholders for a better more targeted community-level action.
If implemented “to the dot”, this tool shall not only increase accountability for the HIV programmes, but it shall also steer action in places where changes need to take place, bridging the coordination and communication gap amongst stakeholders at different levels.
For instance, latest data from the situation room showed that by December 2017, Uganda had about one million people living with HIV. At the same time, new HIV infections have continued to decline, falling over by 60% during this period as access to antiretroviral treatment is being scaled up. And by the end of 2017, close to 80% of PLHIV in Uganda had access to life saving antiretroviral treatment. However, data from the recently conducted Uganda Population-based HIV impact assessment showed that only about 60% of PLHIV on ART had suppressed viral load.
If indeed national planners, policy makers, programmers and all AIDS Development partners are assisted in intensifying efforts where needed, the HIV situation would have enabled more accurate programming and service delivery, ensuring that all people living with HIV, including adults, young people, adolescents and children, have regular access to treatment and care, and that ARVs are replenished quickly should stock-outs occur.
We pray that the HIV situation room tool is launched, implemented and evaluated not only to help governments, but also to bridge the missing gap: a community responsive data disaggregated revolution. From Ivory Coast, Kenya and Uganda, we wish to see more fast track countries including all with HIV programs, supported by the joint Program, to successfully localize the initiative, work with communities to agree on indicators and targets that are not just numerical, but respond to realities and experiences of people living with and most impacted by the AIDS epidemic.
Because only with a community-led response, can we end AIDS.