Uganda: We Applaud Progress in HIV/Aids Treatment

South African Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane Zulu addresses the session “HIV and Key Populations in Africa: Business Unusual”. The session brings together a cross section of some of the continent’s leading implementers of key population programming

There is good news coming from the Ministry of Health as far HIV/Aids is concerned. According to the information collected from the Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL), 83.5 per cent of the people tested and found to have HIV/Aids and who are on treatment, have suppressed their viral load. Among many other things, this means that these people can hardly infect another person with the virus.

This is a milestone that needs to be applauded. In 2014, the United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids set global targets. One of those was to suppress the viral load of 90 per cent of people with HIV and who are on ARVs. We are now closer to hitting that goal.

As Dr Shaban Mugerwa, the head of the care and treatment team at the ministry, said in an article in the Daily Monitor titled '83% Ugandans with HIV show unseen-virus - survey', "this is a great indicator because we are left with 6 or 7 per cent to meet the target.

We must remember where we are coming from. The prevalence rates have fallen from 7.3 per cent in 2011 to 6 per cent in 2016. Mr Mugerwa also states that "there is no sub-county in Uganda where you can go with no ART clinic or HIV clinic."

There is now regular testing of people, not just to see whether they have HIV or not, but also to see how they are doing - if the viral load is increasing or decreasing, especially if they are on ARVs and what that might mean for resistance towards the drugs.

Recognition must be given to CPHL that has a structure of 1,500 public and clinical laboratories in the country that continually collects samples and processes this much needed information.

This does not mean that we should rest on the proverbial laurels. The work must continue unabated. The Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform states that among the Sustainable Development Goals on health for the year 2030, is to end the epidemics of Aids.

The progress report states that "... in 2015, there were 0.3 new HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections per 1,000 uninfected people. That data represents a decline of 45 per cent since 2000."

However, it goes on to say that the incidence of HIV infection remained highest in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1.5 new infections per 1,000 uninfected people in 2015.

So while progress is being made, more needs to be done. All the actors in this fight need to be supported to see to it that we hit that goal.

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