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ULINZI: A condom for the Military

The Directorate for HIV and AIDS under the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) alongside the Program for Accessible health, Communication and Education (PACE) officially launched the Ulinzi condom this month.

Ulinzi, which means “protection”, is a condom branded specifically for the soldiers in order to scale up HIV prevention amongst the military. The idea, conceived in 2013, was to get a condom with which the military related and therefore was more likely to use consistently. PACE, a health organisation that uses social marketing approaches to measurably improve the health of Ugandans, undertook pre-testing activities that included key informant interviews and focus group discussions before deciding on Ulinzi.

Condoms remain a key intervention in the prevention of HIV, but condom use across the continent has continually gone down.

Following the Presidential Fast-track Initiative on Ending HIV&AIDS in Uganda by 2030, the UPDF has taken additional measures to make sure there are no new infections.

“One of the challenges of the UPDF when it took power in 1986 was HIV. The NRA (as it was known then) were heroes, and money did not matter. There was a lot of excitement and constant celebration but no structured interventions to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Brig. Leo Kyanda, the Chief of Staff for the UPDF Land Forces said at the double launch of the condom and the UPDF HIV Prevention Strategy in Bombo Military Barracks on October 2nd, 2018.

Brig Kyanda speaking at the launch

The PEPFAR-funded project has worked with other partners to enhance the already existing efforts in the army to increase prevention behaviour for soldiers and the military communities. Often, these communities are affected by the mobility of the work, separation from family and the sometimes remoteness of their assigned posts. Constant interface with life-and-death situations may also affect health behaviour.

“We don’t hide,” Brig Kyanda said, complimenting the openness with which the soldiers have dealt with the virus and how it has ensured the ART adherence within the force.

“PACE has joined hands with UPDF to amplify and complement already existing efforts. (…) The Ulinzi condom is not going to be a magic bullet for HIV prevention, of course and should be used alongside other proven strategies,” Phyellister Nakamya, the Executive Director for PACE said.

The condom will be distributed, for free, amongst the military populations and communities around military bases across the country.

As with the rest of the Ugandan population, the force is increasingly young and innovation must be at the center of health solutions to ensure that the country registers no new infections.

Ulinzi in the News:

NTV Uganda: http://www.ntv.co.ug/news/national/UPDF-launches-new-condom-brand/4522324-4788808-li7ax3z/index.html

BBC Africa: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45746092

Business Focus: http://businessfocus.co.ug/updf-launches-ulinzi-condom-brand/

Standard Media: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001297884/uganda-s-army-launches-ulinzi-condoms-for-use-by-its-soldiers

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PACE closes out the Positive Living Project (PLP)

26 September, 2016 The Ministry of Health in partnership with Programme for Accessible Health, Communication and Education (PACE) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented a ten-year Positive Living Project (PLP), which has proven that adoption of such positive lifestyles can greatly reduce opportunistic infections, delay HIV disease progression and improve quality of life among PLHIV.

With total funding amounting to US$ 19.783 million from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through CDC, the project distributed a Basic Care Package (BCP)-a simple health kit that included Cotrimoxazole, which is prescribed by clinicians upon confirmation of a positive HIV test; an insecticide-treated mosquito net; a safe water vessel with water treatment for disinfection; condoms and information on how to lead a positive lifestyle. It also integrated screening and management of sexually transmitted infections, family planning, partner testing and supported disclosure, partner discordance counselling, PMTCT, and safer sex practices, including abstinence and fidelity with correct and consistent use of condoms.

PACE on 20th September, 2016, held a national PLP impact dissemination and close out meeting for the project that ends this month, at Hotel Africana in Kampala to share best practices and lessons learned. This follows an independent end of project evaluation by Makerere University School of Public Health.

“Our aim was to reduce opportunistic diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and partner re-infection which take advantage of the compromised immunity of HIV-infected individuals. Findings from the end of project evaluation report show a significantly low incidence of these diseases among individuals that used the BCP kit along with their ART compared to those who used ART only, or the BCP only, especially in the first six months of treatment. Further still the incidence of the diseases dropped significantly in the same period among clients with the BCP only, compared to clients that did not have the BCP at all” says Dr. Dorothy Balaba, Director of Programs at PACE.

The report also showed that adoption of the positive living lifestyle behaviours was higher among PLHIV who had the BCP than those who did not even if they all nearly had equal knowledge about the lifestyle.

To learn more about the impact of the PLP project, read here

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