Uganda Tracks People Living With HIV

Uganda unveils bold electronic medical system to keep track of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country as the epidemic spreads.

There are 1.3 million people living with HIV, with close to 1.1 million on treatment, according to statistics published by Uganda's Ministry of Health.

There are concerns that the new scheme could violate some articles of Uganda's 2019 Data Protection & Privacy Act.

But the head of the country's Aids Control program told a press conference in Kampala last week that the government's sole point of interest is to collect accurate data on new and old HIV carriers which it desperately needs to implement a better health plan.

"For me, this project is long overdue," lvis Basudde, a prominent Ugandan AIDS activist recognized in his country as the first East African journalist to declare his HIV status.

90-90-90 goals

Basudde who is a health correspondent for the Kampala-based New Vision media group told RFI that Uganda needs undistorted statistics about how many of her citizens are living with HIV if the country hopes to meet Global Fund targets of 90-90-90 set for 2020.

According to the prominent AIDS activist, the partnership which invests 3.5 billion euros annually in the fight expects 90 percent of beneficiaries of its programs to not only know their HIV status, but to be given access to treatment and have the virus suppressed by 2020.

"If the virus is in the body and in millions of particles, it means that the treatment is not working properly", said Elvis Basudde.

Trial runs

The introduction of the national electronic data base for people living with HIV is the latest move by Uganda which was one of the first African countries to respond aggressively to the AIDS epidemic.

Trials runs to fine tune the system are already underway at a referral hospital in western town of Hoima.

"Our system in which the medical records of our clients are stored is mounted on a computer accessed through thumb print detectors", says Dr. James Kyayimba, who heads the clinical team.

"When a client comes up, on reception, as we are type in their details and bios, part of the requirement for registration is to record their finger prints.

He explains that the records can only be accessed in the presence of the clients, with their finger prints serving as pass words.

Issues of confidentiality

Dr. Kyayimba reassures Ugandans with an HIV status worried about a leak of their medical details that the system at Hoima clinic is designed to prevent another client from ever coming in contact with another person's information.

As he put it, the strategy pursued is aimed at preventing the duplication of entries and to increase access to ART therapy.

An estimated 50,000 new infections occur in Uganda every year, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Public Health in Kampala.

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