The U.S Deputy Ambassador to Uganda, Dr. Vamsi Vasireddy, has dispelled speculations regarding the United States’ commitment to supporting Uganda. Emphasizing that there is no withdrawal of PEPFAR funds, Dr. Vamsi assured Ugandans that the U.S. government is steadfast in its support for HIV medication, youth programs, and the ongoing battle against HIV.
In a keynote address delivered during the celebration of 20 years of progress and services by the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA), Dr. Vamsi highlighted the enduring support of the U.S. government. UNYPA, a youth-led non-government organization, plays a crucial role in providing leadership and coordination to young people aged between 12 and 24 living with HIV.
During the event, UNYPA marked 10 years of the Y+ (young positive) Beauty Pageant, an impactful campaign challenging HIV stigma and discrimination. Simultaneously, they unveiled the new 2014-2026 organizational strategic plan and initiated a fundraising drive for the UNYPA Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR)/HIV Training Institute.
Dr. Vamsi commended the resilience, bravery, and innovation demonstrated by young people living with HIV (YPLHA) in their efforts to end AIDS. He acknowledged their public advocacy, which has given a face to HIV, inspired others, reduced new infections, and mitigated stigma. Encouraging the youth, he emphasized their worth and urged them to pursue their aspirations without succumbing to discouragement.
Addressing the notion that youth are the future, Dr. Vamsi asserted that the future is now, advising young people to tap into available resources, seek support, and utilize information as a powerful tool. He emphasized the importance of verifying information on the internet due to the prevalence of misinformation.
Dr. Vamsi underscored the need for a stable life and the freedom to love, emphasizing that these values drive the collective efforts to control the epidemic and end AIDS by 2030. However, he identified stigma and discrimination as hindrances that persist, urging against marginalizing HIV-positive individuals.
Ruth Awori, the Executive Director of UNYPA, outlined the organization’s three-year strategic plan, aiming to support networks of people living with HIV to compete for funding opportunities and advocate for Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. She announced plans for a training institute and a one-stop center that will serve as a hub for UNYPA offices and provide safe spaces for youth and people living with HIV to share experiences.
Awori credited the organization’s success to the support received from both state and non-state actors over the 20 years of operation. UNYPA’s advocacy has focused on improving the quality of life for young people living with HIV through ART clinics, affiliate organizations, and networks across the country. Their efforts include promoting effective treatment for prevention, advocating for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support, as well as actively participating in policy dialogues at various levels.