Approximately, 9,276 adolescents contract HIV every year, but health estimates for 2016 released Friday, show infections among children (0 – 14 years) reduced from about 9,500 in 2014 to 3,487 in 2015 and to 2,670 currently.
The number of Ugandans who got infected with HIV last year dropped further to about 83, 000 from about 88,000 the previous year, rekindling hope for the beginning of an end to the disease that killed 28,000 Ugandans in 2016.
But activists are not excited about the figures they said didn't factor-in the ‘unacceptable' high loss-to-follow-up figures and called for a more quality approach to retain more individuals living with the virus on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)
Advocacy manager for the international community of women living with HIV in Eastern Africa Margret Happy said numbers of adolescents who contract HIV when they were born without the virus and the babies who pick the virus months after they are born free indicated need for an "all-comprehensive" response against the virus.
Approximately, 9,276 adolescents contract HIV every year, but health estimates for 2016 released Friday, show infections among children (0 - 14 years) reduced from about 9,500 in 2014 to 3,487 in 2015 and to 2,670 currently.
The report, based on based on the ministry's surveillance data and programme performance, shows that 1,373,060 Ugandans were living with HIV at the end of 2016, lower than the 1.5m who had the virus in 2015.
It shows that at least 940,347 people (of the 1,373,060) were accessing lifesaving ARVs by December 2016. And Option B+ for elimination of mother to child transmissions stood at 97%, above 95% target.
Dr. Joshua Musinguzi, the AIDS Control Programme manager at the health ministry, said the "remarkable drop" in new infections was evidence that the focus on behavioral and biomedical interventions was finally paying off
"Overall, this means our programme coverage indicators are much higher than previously estimated.
"We do this annually and our output for 2016 are encouraging. We will get a complete picture when we conclude the UPHIA (Uganda Population Based HIV Impact Assessment Survey) which is in very advanced stages. But we are now moving towards epidemic control," the AIDS control programme manager said.
"We are at the verge of eliminating mother-to-child transmissions of HIV. Only 2,670, of the 120,000 babies who are exposed to HIV by their mothers, were born with the virus last year," he said. "Our target for elimination of mother-to-child transmissions is below 5%."
But Happy said the ministry needed over focus on retention of people taking ART to stop any cases of reverse gains.
"The ministry is already spending lots of money to start people on treatment. It should maintain them (on treatment)," the AIDS activist said.
Data from the health ministry last year revealed very disturbing news after it emerged that close to half of the babies born HIV- negative to positive mothers in Uganda contracted the virus before their first birthday.
This was blamed on mothers' negligence to adhere to treatment and recommended breastfeeding guidelines.
State minister for health (general duties) Sarah Opendi called for "proper counselling and guidance" of the mothers so they adhere to their treatment regimens.
She said exclusive breastfeeding, especially in the first six months, must be prioritized so as not to lose the gains the country has made in the fight against HIV, by infecting babies after they have been born without the virus.
Paediatrician and adolescent health expert Dr. Sabrina Kitaka said it was "not fair" for a baby born free to contract the virus months later, and called against the "social factors" stopping the country from reaching the 909090 target.
Acting director general of health services at the Ugandan health ministry Dr. Anthony Mbonye said they hadn't seen any reverse gains, but admitted to the challenge of retaining people on treatment.
"(Retaining people on ART) depends on the quality of counselling, the availability of drugs and the individual's personal initiative.
"The health sector may emphasize quality counselling and have all the drugs available, but, at the end of the day, health is maintained by an individual. It is your responsibility to take your medication when on ARVs," the acting director general of health services.
Dr. Joshua Musinguzi said the ministry would continue to enroll more persons living with HIV on treatment and ensure they stay on it. They would continue to scale up safe male circumcision, where more than half of the targeted 4.4 million sexually active males have been circumcised.
"Our target is to reach ARVs to 80% of the total population living with HIV by 2018. And the UN Joint Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) 909090 targets — where 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of those diagnosed with HIV receive ARVs, and 90% of those on ARVs attain viral suppression — by 2020," Joshua Musinguzi said.