Uganda: HIV/Aids Prevalence On the Rise Despite Lockdown

By Fred Wambede

Officials have said HIV/Aids prevalence is on the rise in urban areas despite the coronavirus induced lockdown.

Mr Robert Wandwasi, the Mbale HIV/Aids focal person, said HIV/Aids infection rate in urban areas now stands at 7.1 per cent while that for rural areas is 5.5 per cent.

Mr Wandwasi attributed the rise in prevalence to the focus on the Covid-19 pandemic, with less attention on other life threatening diseases.

Uganda registered the first case of Covid-19 in March last year. The pandemic has so far left more than 680 people dead and 72,679 people infected.

"Whereas as a country, we had made significant progress in reducing HIV/ Aids infections, this is being reversed because it is being sidelined," he said on Monday.

Mr Wandwasi said Ugandans have also became complacent and are engaging in risk lifestyles, which include having unprotected sex with multiple partners.

"Ugandans have become complacent and as a result, we have reverted to the HIV/Aid risk lifestyles yet 50 per cent of our population do not know how to properly use a condom," he said.

Mr Wandwasi explained that the mushrooming guest houses in the urban areas have also greatly contributed to HIV/ Aids infections, especially among teenagers.

"Most of the residential buildings have been turned into guest houses during this period of lockdown and this requires urgent attention," he said.

According to the 2019 statistics from UAC, the number of people living with HIV/Aids stands at 1.4 million, of whom 1.2 million are on treatment. A total of 38,000 new HIV infections are registered every year, according to UAC.

The figures also show that HIV prevalence is highest among men aged 45-49 years (14 per cent) while that of women in the same age bracket stands at 12.8 per cent. Mr Wandwasi was presenting a paper during a one-day- capacity building workshop for journalists on integration of HIV/Aids and Covid-19 messaging at Pretoria Hotel in Mbale City on Monday.

He also said parents should sensitise children on dangers of early sex and pregnancy. "Most of the parents shy away from talking to their children about the dangers of HIV/Aids scourge and this leaves them vulnerable, especially in the lockdown," he said.

Mr Tom Eti, the coordinator of public sector at UAC, said there is a need for the media to sensitise the masses on both Covid-19 and HIV/Aids.

"The media should send messages on both HIV/Aids and Covid-19 co-currently because at the moment more emphasis has been put on Covid-19,"he said.

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