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Teenagers contributing to Uganda's new HIV infections

By Cecilia Okoth

Added 13th August 2020 10:58 AM

Teenagers contributing to Uganda's new HIV infections

Musoba (left) interacting with Mbayo (centre) and Karusa Kiragu, the UNAIDS country director, during a meida briefing at the Media Centre in Kampala on Monday

HIV/AIDS |

The increasing number of teenagers and young women getting infected with HIV has pushed up Uganda's new infections by 1,000 annually.

According to Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the head of the AIDS control programme at the health ministry, the number of Ugandans who get infected with HIV increased from 50,000 in 2016, to 51,000 last year.

A third of the new infections, he said, were mostly registered among adolescents and young women aged 15-24 years.

"Uganda is moving in the right direction because of policies and guidelines put in place. Nonetheless, we still have a burden with new infections," Musinguzi said, adding that 1.4 million people are currently living with HIV/ AIDS.

Of these, 1.2 million are on treatment. The health ministry also reported about 19,000 people who are dying annually as a result of HIV/AIDS.

In terms of gender, Musinguzi said whereas the new infections are mostly seen among women, more than 60% deaths registered as a result of AIDS were seen in their male counterparts, given their poor health-seeking behaviour.

Adolescents, women at risk Musinguzi explained that most girls who get HIV are those that drop out of school and end up staying in communities that expose them to rowdy men while others get married off by their parents at a tender age, to older men.

To solve the above problem, he said the Government invested in a number of programmes aimed at reducing the rates of HIV among adolescents and young women.

These include the DREAMS (USAID programme) as well as global fund.

"Research has shown that if we keep adolescents and young women in school for one year, the chance of HIV acquisition is reduced by more than 60%," Musinguzi said.

Dr Nelson Musoba, the director-general of Uganda AIDS Commission, said Uganda fell short of reducing the 75% mark of new infections due to risk factors, including unprotected sex among sections of the population as well as those with multiple sexual partners.

"We still have HIV positive mothers who transmit the virus to their babies, especially if they have not been on treatment or disclosed their status. There are those who share contaminated sharp objects, abuse drugs and those who, because of stigma, do not disclose their status to their partners," Musoba said.

Hinting at how the lockdown negatively impacted on people living with HIV, Musoba said there were interruptions of treatment adherence which causes the viral load of patients to go up and they transmit the virus.

Poor adherence was also witnessed due to limited access to food as many lost their jobs as well as transactional sex where people struggled to make ends meet.

They made the remarks at a media conference at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala yesterday.

Esther Mbayo, the Minister of the Presidency, said there was need to implement behavioural change interventions and disseminate messages pertaining to HIV prevention to reduce new infections.

Some of the districts with high HIV prevalence include Kalangala (18%), Mbaraa (15.2%), Gulu (14.3%) Kabarole (14.2%) and Masaka (11.5%). Districts with low prevalence include Kabale (6%), Ntungamo (5.6%), Rukiga (4.9%), Isingiro (4.8%) and Luuka (2.7%).

Those with the lowest HIV prevalence include Kween (1.4%), Yumbe (1.2%), Amudat (0.8%), Karenga (0.6%) and Naibilatuk (0.2%).

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