Kampala — New cases of HIV infections are on the rise in eastern region, a trend that could jeopardize Uganda's goals to eliminate the epidemic by 2030.
But the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) 2016/17 report indicates that the cause of the increase is unclear.
"Over 10 million tested for HIV at 500 sites providing HIV services. We have registered decline of new infections countrywide from 7.3 per cent to 6 per cent (85,000 to 52,000 new infections). But in eleven districts in Bugisu, Bukedi and Sebei sub-regions, new infections have increased from 4.1 per cent to 4.4 per cent," said Dr Nelson Musoba, the executive director of UAC.
"We are talking of Kapchorwa, Kween, Bukwo, Manafa, Sironko, Bulambuli, Budaka, Pallisa, Butaleja, Tororo and Busia [districts]," he added.
Speaking at a two-day 10th joint annual HIV/Aids review in Kampala on Wednesday, Dr Musoba said more than $650 million (about Shs2,340 trillion) was spent over the review year (2016/17) by various stakeholders in the fight against HIV/Aids. The review was centred on "reaching men, girls and young women to reduce new infections" and was attended by health workers, district leaders and politicians.
Early this year, President Museveni launched the Fast Track Initiative embedded in the UNAIDS global 90:90:90 targets. Under these targets, every country is challenged to reach at least 90 per cent of all people diagnosed for HIV, 90 per cent of those found positive to undertake treatment, and 90 per cent of those on treatment to have their viral load suppressed.
Uganda has managed to reach the first and second targets among women and children, but the men are failing to measure up to any of these targets for of being identified with the virus.
"About 1.3 million people are living with HIV virus. Over 1.1 million have tested positive. While 95 per cent pregnant mothers have tested for HIV/Aids, only 31 per cent of their male partners have tested," Dr Musoba said.
He added: "A total of 455,520 HIV/Aids patients have the virus suppression. In a bid to prevent infections, we distributed over 300 million condoms."
The report also indicates that more than 38,000 people living with HIV/Aids are on second line of ARVs that need to be prevented from crossing to the third line drugs, which are more expensive. It also shows that 84.5 per cent of HIV clients are malnourished.
Dr Anthony Mbonye, the director general of the Ministry of Health, told Daily Monitor, said another study would be carried out to establish the reasons for the rise of new infections.
"Such studies give us an idea which direction to focus, but the major cause for infection is living a risky life, having multiple partners and not using condoms," he said.
Ms Judith Alyek, the chairperson of HIV/Aids Commission of Parliament, said legislators are pushing for an Aids Trust Fund where two per cent of the tax tax on spirits, soft drinks and water is to be channelled.
"This would amount to Shs9 billion per every quarter to be used for procurement of Aids commodities, including condoms and ARV drugs," she said.
While opening the meeting, the Rev Fr Simon Lokodo, the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, attributed the increase in HIV cases to pornography.
"We have plans to import a server to detect and control pornography. This will prevent youth from accessing pornography that influence their sexual desires," he said.