Photos: Panic As AIDS Shakes UPDF

information pills sans-serif; color: #222222;”>One of the most endangered institutions, buy the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces [UPDF] is losing the grip even faster, causing fear of the impact this could have on the national security body.

Speaking to journalists at the sidelines of the International Candlelight Day for HIV/AIDS held at army headquarters in Mbuya, UPDF’s Director Medical Services, Dr James Makumbi, revealed that the prevalence rate is on a disturbing rise.

Cautious not to disclose the exact rates and figures because of the sensitivity of his position, Makumbi revealed, however, that the prevalence in the army was slightly above the country’s current incidence.

Uganda’s HIV Prevalence had been brought down from 18.5% in 1992, to 6.3 by 2005.

Current [2012] figures, however, indicate that the incidence is on the rise again to 7.2% and about 8% in women.


Dr Makumbi speaking at International Candlelight Day

The Director, who also doubles as a senior Presidential Advisor on Health, noted that at the peak of the HIV/AIDS severity in the Defence Forces in the late 1980s due to scarce resources, had exceeded 20%.

“But we managed to reduce this tremendously in the late 1990s and early 2000. Unfortunately, there a noticeable increase again; we are seeing noteworthy growths of new cases coming up,” he said.

Makumbi expressed panic on what an escalating spread of the disease amongst soldiers could imply to the efficiency and performance of the national army in the near future.

He explained: “People with HIV are not only prone to infections, but will be sick for a long time. This implies that their man-hours being rendered are reduced. In the same vein, a [Defence] Force with a high HIV Percentage rate will not only be weak, but the soldiers might not be there all. They will keep falling off.”

“This is likely to be a major impediment to the national forces’ capability and efficiency, just like it would be to any other institution.”

A US funded organisation; Research Triangle Institute [RTI] International, which has been offering services to the National Army since 2008, has raised the same fears.

They recently reported that their staff alone had screened and identified 3,138 new HIV patients all of whom have been linked to chronic care facilities, for support and treatment.

At yesterday’s candlelight event, soldiers came for free HIV/AIDS testing and treatment but only a handful.

One that spoke to our reporter confessed he had no courage of taking the blood test.

Few UPDF officers turned up for testing

“I have always felt the urge, but I just don’t have the courage of getting tested. I really don’t look forward to what those results would come out like,” he told us in a thick Rukiga accent.

Running under the theme, “Re-engaging communities for effective HIV prevention,” the event involved lighting candles by UPDF soldier in commemoration of their comrades who succumbed to the killer virus.

UPDF in the late 80’s when the prevalence went skyrocketing, collaborated with Ministry of Health and Makerere University and Came up with Joint Clinical Research Centre, that has since been officering support to people living with HIV, as wells as preventive support to those that haven’t contracted it.

Director Makumbi attributed some of the initial successes registered in the battle, to the great peer leadership of President Yoweri Museveni, who ‘unlike many other presidents’ went out of his way and spoke openly about the killer disease.

“There was a time when our code was that every time you rose to speak about anything, you would not conclude without saying something about HIV/AIDs,” he noted.

“But I don’t understand what has gone wrong now. We have won many battles, but are losing our men to AIDS at an unacceptable rate; I believe we need to go back to our old ways.”

He added: “I think that we have perhaps looked at our previous successes and relaxed. We have t know that this is a continuous battle.”

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