The number of Ugandans infected with the HIV virus has increased by 100 per cent in the last seven years, it was announced yesterday. Results from the 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey show that the number doubled from 1.2 million in 2005 to 2.4 million today. This essentially means that one in every 13 Ugandans has HIV. Compounding matters is the fact that the prevalence rate has surged from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3%. Releasing the results, Health minister Christine Ondoa said the survey found that more women than men were infected.
"These results demonstrate indisputably that HIV/AIDS remains a significant health problem for Uganda and should serve as a call to action for all," Ondoa said.
Dr Alex Opio, assistant commissioner for National Disease Control, said the new figures may not necessarily mean failure of HIV-prevention strategies. It could, he said, mean an increase in uptake of antiretroviral treatment, which prolongs the lives of HIV positive people. This could also explain findings that indicate HIV is highest among the widowed women and men followed by the divorced or separated.
Women and men who have never been married (4%) are, meanwhile, the least likely to have HIV as are children below the age of five (0.6%). The survey also found out that HIV infection was higher in urban areas. Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Director General Health Services, explained that most at-risk populations like sex workers, boda boda riders and truck drivers live in urban areas.
The aforesaid notwithstanding, fishing communities in the rural areas are also at a high risk of HIV infection. During the release of the preliminary results in March, Dr Benon Biryahwaho argued that what was failing the fight against HIV in Uganda was the failure by government to realise that the Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condom Use (ABC) campaign had failed.
Indeed, Dr Ondoa yesterday agreed that the driver for the increase in new infections was multiple sexual partners. Dr Biryahwaho consequently advised government to start every HIV positive person on ARVs. But Dr Kihumuro Apuuli, the Director General Uganda Aids Commission, posited that Uganda cannot afford to put all HIV positive people on ART. He said only 330,000 of the 600,000 people who are eligible for ARVs receive treatment. The survey included HIV testing of over 11,000 women aged 15-49 years, and 9,000 men aged 15-59, and nearly 10,000 children below five.