THE number of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide continued to grow in 2008, reaching an estimated 33 million, according to the just released report of UNAIDS.
Around 2.7 million new infections occurred last year, while 2 million people died of the disease the same year.
AIDS has now claimed the lives of 25 million people since the virus was identified three decades ago. As the world commemorates AIDS day today, there is also good news.
New infections have gone down by 17% over the past eight years, with some of the most notable progress reported in Africa.
In East Africa, HIV incidence has even fallen by 25% since 2001. There has also been an unprecedented increase in access to HIV treatment this decade. Between 2003 and 2008, access to anti-retroviral drugs in low-and middle-income countries rose tenfold.
However, the worrying news for Uganda is that HIV/AIDS cases are increasing among married couples.
Last year, 43% of all new infections were among partners of â€˜monogamousâ€™ marriages, usually considered a low risk group.
The new findings call for a review of Ugandaâ€™s strategies on prevention, voluntary testing and counselling. Previous efforts mainly focussed on youth and unmarried people, telling them to abstain or use condoms.
This brought down the HIV/AIDS prevalence drastically. Young people were able to protect themselves before entering marriage.
The trap now seems to be in marriage. Efforts to bring down new infections among married couples will inevitably have to touch on cultural beliefs, where women cannot negotiate sex in marriage.
They will also have to deal with religious dogmas since some religions are opposed to condom use in marriage.
New strategies need to encourage couple testing and counselling, gender equality in issues of sex and more openness among partners in marriage.
The Government and NGOs need to devise new messages targeting married couples, bringing down the walls of stigmatisation and taboo surrounding the issue, if they want to stop more children from growing up as orphans.
HIV/AIDS: new strategies needed for married couples