By Carol Natukunda
THE Government yesterday launched a massive HIV/ AIDS campaign, to curb the rising infections.
Emphasis will be placed on eliminating transmission of HIV from a mother to her baby. If found positive, she will be placed on treatment to protect the baby’s health.
Fathers will also be required to take the test and to support mothers irrespective of their status.
Prof. Vinand Nantulya, the chairperson of the Uganda AIDS Commission, regretted that there was a lot of complacency among Ugandans.
“With ARVS, people think that AIDS no longer kills. Someone who is on ARVs might even look healthier than someone who is not sick. Some people, say, “Oh, well we shall all die, so why bother?” Nantulya notes.
According to the 2011 national indicator survey, the HIV prevalence rate rose from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3% among Ugandans aged 15- 49 years.
There is evidence that more people, especially men, have multiple sexual partners.
In fact, the survey shows that among adult males, sex with multiple partners is back to where it was at the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s.
About 90% of new infections occur in those who engage in multiple sex relationships.
Nantulya warned against complacency, saying: “If you are HIV-positive, do not think treatment is easy to take. That treatment (ARVS) is daily, and it is for life.”
“There is also the ever present threat of drug resistance, which might require change of drug combinations. So if you choose to take these risks, let it be clear to you that these drugs are not curative,” he added.
Nantulya notes that the country cannot afford to have enough drugs to treat all Ugandans living with HIV. Already, only half of the 500,000 Ugandans who need to be on treatment are currently enrolled in the treatment programmes.
Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli, the director general of Uganda AIDS Commission, says with the new campaign, they have launched a strategic plan, which aims at reducing new infections by 30% by 2015.
This implies averting about 700,000 new infections.
“We should ensure that all pregnant mothers find out their HIV status as soon as they are pregnant. We now have methods that can stop mother to child transmission. And if you are negative, there are methods available to you to remain negative. If you get tempted, please use a condom,” he says.