By Anne Mugisa and Paul Kiwuuwa
All pregnant women will get free anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to stop the transmission of the HIV virus to the unborn babies, the Ministry of Health has said.
The babies will also be put on ARVs until they are tested for the virus at two months.
Administration of ARVs will, according to the ministry, be carried out irrespective of the recipients’ CD4 level.
“This new programme has the potential to ensure that children are no longer born with HIV. But, it can only work if stakeholders co-operate,” read the statement.
The statement showed that the ministry will in collaboration with the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) ensure that HIV/AIDS is eliminated. The programme will start early next year.
The announcement comes as Uganda prepares to join the rest of the world tomorrow in marking World AIDS Day.
The national commemoration be at Kasensero fishing village in Rakai district, the director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission, Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli, said.
In a message delivered by Kakuto County MP Mathias Kasamba at Parliament on Monday, Kihumuro stated that President Yoweri Museveni is expected to preside over the function.
The theme of the day will be: “Re-engaging leaders for effective HIV prevention.”
According to Kihumuro, Kasensero was chosen because the first AIDS cases in Uganda were identified there in 1982. Kasensero is a fishing village on the shores of Lake Victoria in Rakai.
Last year, the day was commemorated at Kololo Airstrip in Kampala. Uganda’s AIDS prevalence rate has shot up from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3% as of September last year, according to a report by the health ministry.
While releasing the report, health minister Christine Ondoa attributed the trend to promiscuity.
According to UHMG, 31,200 newborn babies are infected by their mothers every year.
It pointed out that 15-20% of the mother-to-child transmission infections happen during pregnancy, while in 60-70% happen during labour.
There is also a 15 to 20% chance of infection during breastfeeding. The group also pointed out that these chances can be greatly reduced if HIV-positive mothers take ARVs, deliver with the help of qualified health personnel and breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months.
Uganda aims at reducing the risk to the global target of 5% by 2015.
According to the 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey report, the percentage increase is higher among women than men. The prevalence rate has increased from 7.5% to 8.3% among women compared to 5-6.1% among men. Over 130,000 new HIV infections are recorded in the country each year.
However, it was also noted that more HIV-positive people in Uganda now live longer because of the availability of ARVs and this number feeds into the new infections to increase the overall national prevalence rate.