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The Uganda AIDS Commission has expressed optimism that since there has been advancement in the medication and treatment of HIV/ AIDS over the years, more advanced and improved medication including vaccines will be found.
The Commission’s Director General Dr Nelson Musoba told reporters yesterday; “It has been such a journey over the last 30 years. We started when the main message was prevention. Majority of our population could not even access treatment because it was too expensive, it was out of reach. Then we came to a place where anti-retrovirals were introduced but they were toxic and the Ministry of Health would say, we will wait until your CD4 count is at a certain level to protect the individual; then you would be started on treatment. At certain cases you could take up to 20 pills a day,” said Musoba.
But over time, Musoba says things have changed and currently, over 90% of HIV positive patients take a single pill a day not 20 pills as it used to be in the past.
“You can see. From no treatment to 20 pills a day to a single pill a day.”
He also said that there is an injection as a way of treating HIV although it is not in Uganda yet.
“So we need to adopt practices that will make us stay safe and alive until treatment comes. We are hopeful that even the vaccine will come. There is an ongoing research. But we have to remain practicing the safe methods until these methods are here. So, let’s wait for 2021, there are usually ground breaking researches that are shared. I am not promising that the injection will be announced in 2021 but every step we take we expect there will be an innovation,” he said.
In Uganda, it is estimated that approximately 1.4 million people live with HIV. Out of these, 1.2 million have tested and are on antiretroviral therapy.
In 2014, the United Nations launched the 90 – 90 – 90 HIV/ AIDS targets to be achieved by 2020.
The targets intend that by 2020, 90% of all people must be knowing their HIV status, 90% of those who have the virus be put on treatment immediately and those on treatment have their viral load suppressed.
By the time these targets are reviewed in December 2020, Musoba is very hopeful that they will have been achieved and even surpassed.
“As a country we have come a long way over the last three decades when HIV was first detected here, it was in double digits. At some point, certain population groups had HIV prevalence as high as 40%. So it meant that 4 in every 10 persons who were being tested were becoming HIV positive,” said Musoba.
The Government effort in the 1990s he said brought the high prevalence down and by 2005 , the HIV prevalence was as low as 6.4%.
However, when the Ministry of Health conducted a study in 2011, the prevalence had risen again to 7.3%.
The Ministry of Health conducted yet another study in 2016 and found out that the HIV prevalence had lowered again to 6%.
“But we have since taken on the combination of HIV prevention approach meaning that we emphasize treatment because there are benefits for taking treatment. When you take your treatment, the benefit to you as an in individual is that you become productive, you are healthy but also you cannot pass on the infection to your HIV negative partner.”
To sexually active mature people, Musoba emphasized faithfulness.
“If you are to have sex with a partner whose status you either don’t know or you are a discordant couple, then use a condom.”