New Vision (Kampala)

17 October 2012

Uganda's Aids Response Moving in Reverse

An HIV/AIDS report by advocacy organisations in Uganda indicates that new transmissions are on the rise amidst troubling trends of increasing prevalence and incidence.

The findings are contained in a report titled: "The Change We Need to End AIDS in Uganda," which describes a ten-point plan to halt the trend.

The plan is to be presented at Uganda's 2012 Joint Annual Aids Review, Imperial Hotel during a two-day symposium that ends today Wednesday.

Speaking at a media breakfast at Fairway Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday, Alice Kayongo, the HIV/AIDS Policy /Advisor with Community Health Alliance Uganda, noted:

"HIV prevalence in Uganda has risen from 6.4% in 2006 to 7.3%. Uganda is the only country reporting rise in HIV incidence, yet we are receiving funding from the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), while other PEPFAR countries have consistently reported declines HIV prevalence."

Some of the ten points include ending harmful policies that further marginalise vulnerable groups; endorsing and expanding safe medical circumcision, and tackling health challenges that hold back the response to AIDS, among other points.

Kayongo also highlighted the fact that 57% of people in most urgent clinical need of HIV/AIDS therapy have access to drugs, leaving a whole 43% still not accessing treatment, "Yet therapy improves the patients' health and reduces transmission by over 90%."

Additionally, Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the Executive director of Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA), blamed public policy as part of the reasons the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is on the rise.

"Currently, there is limited dissemination of information on HIV prevention to some groups such as sex workers and homosexuals, yet the virus can cross from these groups to others since they are bisexuals and also from prostitutes to their clients," he said.

"What's more, one in every ten new infections is between sex workers and their partners, and yet these are some of the marginalised groups from whom information regarding prevention is concealed.".

Similarly, Margaret Happy, the advocacy manager at National Forum for PLHA Networks in Uganda noted that the HIV/AIDS prevention and control Bill 2011 is discriminatory and unethical.

"The HIV/AIDS control Bill is questionable and puts women at a disadvantage," she said.

"The law will permit one to sue on grounds of attempting to transmit, or on grounds of transmission."

"This puts the women at risk because usually, they get to know their sero status before their spouses, when they attend antenatal care. The husband can sue yet it is not known who brought the virus first."

Happy further noted the limited treatment coverage, especially following the withdrawal of the Aids Support Organisation outlets in numerous parts of Uganda, is undermining treatment.

"The current service delivery without TASO has led to the scrap of linkages with home care and this has had implications like lack of adherence and even deaths," she said.

"Today, patients who miss appointments are not routinely followed up," she said.

"The ministry of health should ensure a mode of service delivery with strong linkage to home care. Also, transmission can be reduced by 90% with adherence to treatment."

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