Uganda’s regional performance in fighting HIV/AIDS remains poor, even as the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa continued to by over 200,000 last year.
By Francis Kagolo
Uganda’s regional performance in fighting HIV/AIDS remains poor, even as the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa continued to drop by over 200,000 last year.
The latest report from the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that an estimated 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2011 in sub-Saharan Africa, down from 1.9 million the previous year. Of these, about 300,000 were children.
There were an estimated 23.5 million people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, including 3.1 million children. More than 90% of children living with HIV globally live in sub-Saharan Africa.
General HIV infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa have been declining in the past years, from the estimated 2.6 million (2.4m–2.8m) at the height of the epidemic in the late 1980s.
Ironically, while the regional infection rate is going down, Uganda problem is only worsening. Uganda’s new infections rose from 124,000 in 2009 to 128,000 in 2010. At least 130,000 more Ugandans acquired HIV last year, according to the country’s AIDS Indicator Survey (UAIS) 2011.
The UNAIDS report was released on Wednesday in Washington DC, US, ahead of this year’s International AIDS Conference.
According to the report, “a majority of adult HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa resulted from unprotected sexual intercourse, including paid sex and sex between men.”
Domestic public spending in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 97% over the last five years, according to the report.
However, in Uganda, Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli says the Government contributes only 11% to the sh1.6 trillion annual funding available for HIV/AIDS programme in the country. Majority (68%) is from donors and the rest from the private sector.
South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya are among the seven sub-Saharan countries the UN agency commended for making “the most dramatic progress” in enrolling more HIV positive people on free ARVs. Others are Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda and Swaziland.
In sub-Saharan Africa, increased access to HIV treatment has reduced the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes, from an annual peak of 1.8 million in 2005 to 1.2 million last year.
“Globally, there were 34.2 million people living with HIV in 2011, more than ever before due to the life prolonging effects of antiretroviral therapy,” said the report.
However, the report has sparked off mixed local reactions, with some anti-HIV activists attacking the Government for lazing in fighting the pandemic.
Prof. Prof. Nelson Ssewankambo, the principal Makerere University College of health sciences, said Uganda’s success in reducing HIV infections in the 1990s caused complacency.
“It reached a time when we thought we were doing better than other countries. So, even the prevention and behaviour change messages on radios and TVs reduced. The investment in the campaign also reduced. Anti-HIV/AIDS billboards are no longer as common as they used to be,” he observed.
“The leadership in the country was very active about HIV prevention. The president was very key in sensitising the public on behaviour change and because of this; even the leaders below him were doing the same. Unfortunately this has reduced.”
Ssewankambo said the Government ought to rekindle its enthusiasm by increasing funding for HIV/AIDS programmes and carry out targeted interventions towards high-risk groups like prostitutes.
Ethics minister the Rev. Simon Lokodo said there was need for stern action against pornographic media, which he blamed for promoting promiscuity.
“There has been abuse of the media to sell into the minds of the people the fantasy of sex. Radios, newspapers and TVs keep talking about making sex. The whole modesty of sexual life has lost meaning.”
Uganda HIV performance poor in Africa